Twenty-eight freshmen moved into Niagara University last Tuesday morning, four days before their fellow first-year students arrived on campus.
Their purpose: To serve the neighboring communities of their adopted home.
Through the university's "Niagara Plunge" program, the new students performed an assortment of contributive activities at Niagara Falls-based nonprofits, including the Francis Center, Community Missions, Carolyn's House, Historic Holy Trinity church, Summit Life Outreach, the Aquarium of Niagara and Heart, Love and Soul.
As a Churchville, Maryland, native, Amanda Brannan had no affiliation with any of the Niagara County-based organization the "Plunge" serves. But Brannan was very involved in community-minded activities in high school, where she performed more than 400 hours of service. Brannan said she chose NU based partly on the university's mission of helping those in need.
"I knew that I'd be able to continue my love of service at Niagara," said Brannan, who is studying hospitality and tourism management.
Similarly, Amber Thiel, of West Valley, admitted service opportunities were high on her list of requirements when selecting which college to attend.
"When considering schools, I initially chose three where community service was a major factor in graduating," explained Thiel, a marketing major. "I decided on Niagara, because their service programs were a step above the other programs. After completing my 'Plunge' week, I can confirm that to be true. I worked with so many people this week who cared so much and had all this passion for the people of the Niagara community."
Brannan and Thiel also relished the chance to get a jump-start on moving into their residence halls and meeting their peers. It was evident the seeds of friendships were being sown among the young people who shared a common interest in altruism.
"I am really glad I participated, because you not only do service projects, but you also get to meet some new people. I feel comfortable around everyone here, even the 'Plunge' leaders. Everyone who put this program together really did a great job," Brannan said.
The "Niagara Plunge" is intended to be an abbreviated version of NU's popular service-immersion experience, Brothers and Sisters in Christ. BASIC participants perform service in areas such as Camden (New Jersey), Philadelphia, Greensboro (North Carolina), St. Louis and the Republic of Panama during semester breaks.
Thiel signed up to participate during winter break the same day the "Plunge" concluded.
"After this experience, I want to do more with Campus Ministry. I want to be a part of something greater than me," she said.
To learn more about Niagara University, visit www.niagara.edu.