Like many students who rolled up their sleeves and joined in FGCU’s Make a Difference Day activities, Mia Stanzione earned service-learning hours for pitching in to help mulch flowerbeds and complete other landscaping work at the Bonita Springs YMCA. Not that she needed to. A junior pursing a bachelor’s degree in community health, she already has surpassed her 80 required service hours.
“I have 105 now, and my goal is to get 200 so I can earn the service-learning cord for graduation,” Stanzione said. “Volunteering is great. It’s a good way to meet new people and make memories while giving back. I want to carry this on throughout my life, to set an example.”
About 400 other students, faculty, staff, alumni and Wells Fargo representatives demonstrated their commitment to serving the community on Nov. 22. After meeting up at Alico Arena, Make a Difference Day volunteers fanned out across the region to do work at a dozen sites in Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Naples and Immokalee. They sorted food for distribution at the Harry Chapin Food Bank, helped prepare meals at Community Cooperative soup kitchen and planted a garden at the Collier County PACE Center for Girls.
“Service is not something that we just talk about at Florida Gulf Coast University. Indeed, it’s part of our DNA,” President Wilson G. Bradshaw told the assembled volunteers. “It’s more than just symbolic — it’s very real.”
Wells Fargo Greater Southwest Area President Jeffrey Ospina reminded volunteers of the impact of their efforts.
“If you’re out there cleaning up a waterway, you’re making Southwest Florida more beautiful. Think about the thousands of people that get to see that and the wildlife you may be saving. That’s a big deal,” he said.
Sarah Adams, a sophomore environmental studies major, was one of those volunteers cleaning up trash in Fish Trap Bay adjacent to FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station in Bonita Springs. They paddled against a strong breeze, nosing their canoes along and into the mangroves to spot and snatch debris such as fishing line, lumber and toys.
“I’m a big believer in protecting the environment because of all the services it provides us,” Adams said. “We need clean water and clear air. I want to do what I can to help.”
FGCU Alumni Association chapters also participated in volunteer work in Fort Myers, Sarasota, Denver, Hillsborough County, Atlanta, Austin and Los Angeles. The FGCU Foundation, Alumni Association and Office of Civic Engagement and Service-Learning coordinate Make a Difference Day