Four years ago, the Olivet College Difference Maker program launched. In just a short time, it has become an expansive program impacting the lives of dozens of students and countless communities across the country.
Difference Makers are students from all backgrounds who are united by one goal: service to the community. This goal comes directly from the third principle of the Olivet College Compact, “I am responsible for service to Olivet College and the larger community.”
Difference Makers play a large role in the longstanding tradition of Service Day at Olivet. The event occurs once per semester, and it is an opportunity for all students, staff and faculty to volunteer on a local service project created by students. On this day, Difference Makers orchestrate many projects, from spreading mulch at the park downtown to making blankets for a children’s center.
“Service Day is a great opportunity for Olivet College students to give back to our community, but we do not stop there,” said Jacob Richards ’18, community service coordinator and director of the Difference Maker program. “Difference Makers can be seen volunteering all around our country. Within the last school year, Difference Makers were rebuilding churches in North Carolina, repairing roofs in Florida, distributing food to the hungry in Tennessee and assisting families in Puerto Rico as they recover from Hurricane Maria.”
During service learning projects, Difference Makers are not only having a positive impact on the lives of others, they are also learning how to be resilient in the face of tragedy. Richards notes Difference Makers are often exposed to social issues, like hunger and poverty. Through the eyes of local residents, students have also heard firsthand accounts of natural disasters stripping communities of electricity or families stranded in dangerous floodwaters.
“Difference Makers witness the ugly face of tragedy in many forms and they take a stand against it,” Richards said. “They hear shocking stories from people all over the country, they empathize with these people, and then they make a difference. They feed the hungry, they rebuild destroyed homes and they see the devastation, but more importantly, they are part of the recovery. Difference Makers walk away from this program empowered by knowing that if tragedy were to make an appearance in their lives, recovery is possible.”
Olivet College is committed to providing service learning opportunities to all students. These high-impact experiences are crucial for growth and the strengthening of communities near and far.