Despite the threat of uncertain weather conditions, the Hattiesburg and Southern Miss communities united for the ninth annual Big Event on Feb. 23.
A Southern Miss tradition beginning in 2010, the Big Event is advertised as a service project for USM students, faculty and staff to “give back” to the Hattiesburg community. Southern Miss is not the only college campus to partake in this activity; campuses nationwide dedicate days for service projects.
The Big Event is easily the largest service project in the nation that is directed by university students.
On Saturday, check-in began at the Rock stadium on campus. Afterward, assigned teams traveled to various service locations across Hattiesburg, Petal and Purvis. Such an undertaking does not go without planning.
The USM Center of Community and Civic Engagement and the Student Government Association collaborated on planning the service project. Volunteer team leaders attended a mandatory training session organized by SGA. The CCCE helped the Big Event committee find more work sites for volunteers, totaling to an approximate 30 different sites.
“We tried to have a lot of different connections,” director of CCCE Christy Arrazattee said. “We reached out to churches and neighborhoods to help students feel more connected with the community.”
The 2018 Big Event, Arrazattee said, was the first time that students participated in rebuilding houses during the massive service project. Arrazattee explained that similar activities helped forge a more “human” connection between community residents and Southern Miss.
The Gulf Park campus in Long Beach joined in the endeavor. Hattiesburg’s sister campus worked at a Biloxi community kitchen called Loaves and Fishes.
Additional service sites were not the only changes to the Big Event this year. Usually hosted in March, the 2019 Big Event was instead pushed forward to accommodate for the shortened semester.
“We know everyone gets busy,” Big Event executive director and sophomore speech pathology major Madi Maisel said. “And March has both Spring Break and Mardi Gras break. So we moved it [the Big Event] to February.”
When asked how directing the event influenced her, Maisel said the Big Event is “bigger” than her.
“Usually 500 to 600 people come to this event, and it’s been great to see it grow beyond that,” she said.
The Big Event also affects individual students. Freshman biology major Alaya Cosgrove was a part of the team assigned to Hawkins Elementary School in Hattiesburg. The team prepared supplies for Teacher Appreciation Day.
“We all got to work together and learn more about each other,” Cosgrove said. “Doing service makes my heart feel so full.”
Students interested in volunteering can find volunteer postings on the SGA Varsity webpage as well as reach out to the Center of Community and Civic Engagement.
For more volunteer opportunities, visit the CCCE office located in room 104 in the Hub.