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You can practically hear the laughter echoing off the brick walls of the orphanage as Jessica Cason reminisces about playing hide-and-seek with a young girl in Guatemala. A warm memory during her mission trip to the Valley of the Angels orphanage with the Franciscan Mission Service, Cason feels the children she met left as much of an impression on her as she hopes was left on them.
That experience is one of many the Lancaster, N.Y., native has had since first volunteering through the Franciscan Center for Social Concern (FCSC) at St. Bonaventure University in 2014.
Getting her start by participating in the Farm to Table summer program, which provides students hands-on experience with sustainable agriculture and service, Cason has served meals to the homeless at Philadelphia’s St. Francis Inn; harvested fresh vegetables at Canticle Farm in Olean; prepared the food to then be served at the Warming House,the nation’s oldest student-run soup kitchen; and led a trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives.
“These programs help students learn to get out of their comfort zones and be involved in the world around them,” Cason said.
To raise money and awareness, the FCSC is hosting a one-day fundraising event on Nov. 27, a day known as #GivingTuesdayatBonas.
Across the United States, the “giving Tuesday” movement is intended to be a way to encourage people to support their favorite non-profit causes as part of their holiday giving.
Along with the programs Cason has been directly involved with, the event’s spotlight includes additional FCSC programs, such as Bona Buddies, a youth mentoring program; Silver Wolves, connecting students with elderly residents at a local assisted living home; and BREAK the Bubble, organizing service trips during the fall and spring breaks.
FCSC Director Alice Miller Nation explains that the center also provides academically credited opportunities to study both causes and solutions to social problems.
“We strive to form students who will leave the Bonaventure experience confidently, offering hope and goodness to the world through their work and leisure,” said Miller Nation. “It’s our outreach through Bona Buddies, The Warming House, Silver Wolves, Break the Bubble Service Learning Trips, Farm to Table and all the other ways we engage students to notice the individuals who are at times invisible in our society.”
For Cason, the experiences facilitated through FCSC have changed the course of her life.
Currently serving as the center’s graduate assistant, she is completing her master’s degree in accounting and hopes to continue helping others and pass along the wisdom that Bona’s and FCSC have given her.
“I have learned that joy can be found everywhere, even when so little is available materialistically,” she said. “But working with FCSC has really opened my eyes regarding how much more we need to do as a nation to help the homeless and less fortunate.”
To show your support, visit www.sbu.edu/GivingTuesdayatBonas to donate, plus use #GivingTuesdayatBonas and #GivingTuesday on all your social media channels to spread the word. For more information or to make a gift by phone, please contact Advancement Services at (716) 375-2330.
About the University:The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.
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