The University of Southern Mississippi celebrates the holiday season with its traditional Student Government Association holiday philanthropy event, Lighting the Way, on Wednesday.
“We have chosen to display lanterns at the front of campus as opposed to the trees we have displayed in the past for each organization,” said Nina Bellipanni, the SGA assistant director of Lighting the Way. “Organizations will still be recognized for the lanterns they have purchased and their names will be placed next to their lantern. We will also still have the large Christmas tree that will be decorated and lit during the event.”
Students can purchase a lantern for their organization for $100 that will be represented during this community-wide event. All lantern proceeds will be donated to this year’s beneficiary, Aldersgate Mission, a ministry of Main Street United Methodist Church, according to unitedwaysems.org. Aldersgate Mission serves more than 88 youth of the downtown Hattiesburg area.
This event is open to not only students but also the university and community as a whole. Lighting the Way has always been a traditional Southern Miss event that both the students and community recognize and look forward to. It signifies the beginning of the holiday season and serves to bring the Southern Miss campus and Hattiesburg community together in preparation for the holiday season.
“I can’t think of a better way to begin the holidays than by coming together as a university and community and lighting our tree at the front of our beautiful campus,” Bellipanni said. “It is also a chance for the Student Government Association and the university to give back to the community.”
Each year a different beneficiary or philanthropy is chosen, and it is most often an organization from the Hattiesburg community. Through the purchase of lanterns by campus organizations and donations taken at the event each year, the Student Government Association has an opportunity to help others at what is considered a very special time of year.
Lighting the Way will include various performances from groups on campus, including the Belle Tones, Spirit of Southern, the African American Student Organization gospel choir, the Southern Miss Steel Band and also a performance from this year’s beneficiary, the children of Aldersgate.
In addition to performances there will be several activities for children, such as an opportunity to take a photo with Santa, a reindeer food-making station and other crafting stations. The evening will also include the lighting of the large Christmas tree that will be displayed across the street from the dome along with the lighting of the lanterns that various organizations on campus have purchased.
Bellipanni expects this event will be something that students and Hattiesburg community members can enjoy as they get ready to transition into the holiday season and as the school year is winding down. She is also hopeful that they can raise a large amount of money for their beneficiary, Aldersgate.
“I am hopeful that there will be a large turnout for this event,” Bellipanni said. “Lighting the Way is a well known traditional event both at Southern Miss and in the Hattiesburg community so there is no doubt in my mind that there will be a large crowd. Lighting the Way is definitely an event that you do not want to miss.”
The public is invited to attend this annual event, slated for 5:30 p.m. Lantern registration can be found at www.southernmisssga.org/lighting-the-way/