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Heritage Day: Impactful, but Room to Improve

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Moravian College students and faculty came together to organize food for Second Harvest Food Pantry.

Moravian College students and faculty came together to organize food for Second Harvest Food Pantry.

Emma Miller

Emma Miller

Moravian College students and faculty came together to organize food for Second Harvest Food Pantry.

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More than 1,280 students, faculty, and staff united on Sept. 26 to celebrate Moravian College’s third Heritage Day.

Heritage Day is an annual event where the College cancels classes and encourages students and faculty to participate in their Convocation ceremony and community service.

The tradition began in 2016 after the president of Moravian College, Bryon Grigsby, decided he wanted the college to dedicate a day to community service. This coincided with the celebration of the school’s 275th anniversary, according to Gillian Sharkey, director of civic engagement and Heritage Day coordinator.

Heritage Day kicked off with Convocation in the morning, when staff and students shared anecdotes about the College’s history and the importance of civility, which is the InFocus theme for this year. Speakers included President Grigsby; Cecilia Fox, director of the neuroscience program; and Imaani J. El-Burki, dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Convocation was followed by two and a half hours of community service work, which was then followed by a luncheon and reflection period, in which students were asked to discuss their community service experience with other participants and reflect on the question, “What impact did your team make?”

“It’s been wonderful,” said Sharkey. “There’s been [a great] turnout and I’m so excited about all the external partners we have. Today we hit over 1,280 [participants] so that was a really exciting number because it’s the highest [it’s] been. So every year just keeps getting bigger and better.”

For the day’s community service activities, students were randomly assigned locations. Some departed to locations like the Boys and Girls Club or a women’s shelter, while others stayed on campus to do community service projects in the Arc in Johnston Hall.

“I love Heritage Day.” said student Anna Esposito, who stayed on campus to make fleece blankets for those in need. “It’s a really good way to give back to the community and practice Moravian’s values because we are so focused on service and giving back.”

Associate professor of English Dr. Nicole Tabor said, “I’ve participated every year and just consider it such an honor and a privilege to be part of this. I think [the morning program] really elevates the discourse to have such an illuminating morning before we come together for the physicality of the experience itself.”

While many participants expressed their affection toward the day, some think there is room for improvement.

“I think it does bring the College community together for a good cause,” said Caitlin Roth, a student who stayed on campus to make posters for a local animal shelter. “I just don’t think Moravian has all the logistics figured out yet about how to properly run Heritage Day to make it worthwhile and fun, and to make us feel like we’re actually making an impact and not just doing something to get rewarded.”

Senior Madeline Bachert, who also stayed on campus to make posters for Peaceable Kingdom, said, “I love the idea, and I think getting everyone involved in community service is brilliant. Honestly, there’s more we could be doing.”

But according to Grigsby, the reason the community service portion can not run longer is because the buses the College uses for transportation need to be going on runs for the public schools.

“There’s always room for improvement,” said Sharkey. “I think we can constantly improve our reflection process, we can constantly improve our on-site activities to make them more robust, but there are so [many] good things that are happening that we’re just going to keep going.”  

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