Jessica Rhea smiles a lot but never as much as at Community Engagement Day.
“People walk around and smile,” Rhea said. “You literally walk around smiling.”
Rhea, the director of service learning at FGCU, will be hosting her sixth Community Engagement Day on Friday, April 15 at Alico Arena.
Rhea is expecting 75 to 80 student groups to attend the event, where they will set up posters about their community service projects and answer questions from visitors.
Charles Daramola, the director of the FGCU Community Health program, will have three student groups at the event from his Healthy Communities class.
Every spring, Daramola’s students meet with local nonprofit organizations, help them create health education programs and then help to implement and track the progress of those programs.
For example, one student project focused on reducing crime in Lee County through planning activities with the Boys and Girls Club. Another focused on restructuring the gym curriculum at Estero High School.
“It’s a classic example of taking what you learn in the classroom, taking it out in the real world and using it,” Daramola said.
Each year, two faculty members are given the Commitment to Service award for supporting service in their classes. Daramola won one of last year’s Commitment to Service awards for his work in the Healthy Communities class.
“When I got here, the class was a lecture class,” Daramola said. “There was no application of the textbook to real life.”
That is why Daramola started having students engage in the nonprofit projects, helping them to develop skills from the education they get in the class.
There are also 12 student awards that will be presented at the event. Ten of those will be selected by judges. Each poster will be scored by at least three of approximately 50 judges. For the first time ever, two of the awards, the Highest Impact and Most Engaged awards, will be given to students based on nominations and not selected the day of the event.
“The change was made because we wanted to be able to get more input from the community partner who is the recipient, to see how impactful the work was,” Rhea said.
Groups who win awards will be given $50 to $100 to donate to the community group they volunteered with.
Both Rhea and Daramola think the event is positive for students.
“It’s a great place for all students to see what their peers have been doing all year,” Rhea said.
“Students need to be able to take the knowledge they learn in the classroom and take it to the real world,” Daramola said. “By the time they leave here, they have not only book knowledge but actual skills.”
The event is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Alico Arena. FGCU alumna Jessi Drumond will speak as the keynote at 10 a.m.