USCA students serve North Aiken students food for thought and nourishment

November 20, 2017

The following story was written by Larry Wood at the Aiken Standard.
Published on Friday, November 17, 2017.

The contents of book bags usually nourish the mind, but the book bags USC Aiken students donated to children at North Aiken Elementary on Friday offered them a different kind of nourishment.

Each of the bags, many of them decorated with super heroes and princesses, were filled with breakfast, lunch and dinner foods and snacks so the children, who might get good meals only at school, and their families won't be hungry over the weekend and the upcoming, long Thanksgiving break.

Students, faculty and staff donated the food and the book bags Thursday at USCA's annual One Table Thanksgiving meal for the entire campus. The price of admission was two food items or $2.

“It was great seeing their faces light up when they opened the bookbags. They were so excited,” said Madalyn Thomas, a senior communications major from Clover and the student coordinator for the project. “The university has a strong focus on community service. It's really fun and rewarding for us because we are so blessed at the university to be able to give back. It's especially good for students who aren't from here to see the kids who live here and interact with them.”

As part of their community service project, the USCA students read books or talked with the North Aiken students about college and their future career plans.

“They had their career day Thursday, so a lot of them were eager to talk about what they want to do when they grow up. I heard everything from a firefighter to Cinderella to a vet to I want to ride horses,” Thomas said. “The kids are so smart, and they love every opportunity to talk to anybody and everybody about their dreams and what they want to do.”

Principal Elisa Sanders-Pee said the school's focus is literacy, and verbal interaction between her students and the USCA students supports that mission.

“Literacy is about reading, writing and speaking, and this gives our students the opportunity to do that authentic speaking as they're interacting with college students,” she said.

She added that community support strengthens schools.

“It's always great when the community reaches out to support our schools – especially our students,” Sanders-Pee said. “Community support is what helps to make schools great.”

Kayatria Jones, the reading interventionist at North Aiken and a USCA alumna, said her students love talking and interacting with visitors.

“We have been talking to our students about shooting to go to college,” Jones said. “We have a board display up that shows where we all went to college, and we really want to encourage them to do that, too, if it's in their future.”

USC Aiken, a comprehensive university in the University of South Carolina system, offers undergraduate and master’s degrees to more than 3,500 students in 50 programs of study. USC Aiken is ranked the #1 public regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report’s guide "America’s Best Colleges." The 2018 distinction marks USC Aiken’s 20th consecutive ranking among the top three in this category and its 13th time in first place.