Inspired by the scriptures, religious teachings on social justice and their message of faith and selflessness, the Benedictine Black Student Union exceeded its online charitable fundraising goal.
The Atchison Giving Tree project has so far generated $ 2,536 through GoFundMe, which means five low-socioeconomic families in the Atchison, Kansas campus area will receive assistance, including gifts and stockings for their children. BSU President Soloman Wallace, a student at the Benedictine School in St. Louis, said he was primarily motivated by his faith.
“As a kid, I personally haven’t been able to have the best Christmas,” Wallace said. “I knew that if I was put in a position to help others, this is something I would want to do, knowing that it is also something God would want from me.”
The BSU engages in activism on diversity and inclusion, but Wallace’s approach is first and foremost that of a Christian leader doing what he can to support II Corinthians 9: 7: “Each man according to his intentions in his heart, as he gives; not reluctantly or out of necessity: for God loves those who give joyfully.
This has special meaning for Giovanni Burk, who helps lead the recruiting efforts for the BSU. The group is open to all students without distinction of ethnic origin, creed or origin. A native of Atchison himself, Burk is one of the growing number of black students on what has always been an undiversified campus. He said he was proud to see Benedictine become not only the Catholic college that is in town, but one that sponsors deep and personal relationships with all of its residents.
“There are a lot of young men around here who don’t know anything about college,” said Burk. “So I want to give them the example of a young man from their same town who is in college that they all know how to do something good, let them know that they can do it too. “
The community as a whole has strived to strengthen the interconnections between institutions and people. In one case, this is represented by the name change last year of the busiest thoroughfare near the Benedictine campus to Unity Street. The old name “Division” is associated with a story in Atchison in which black residents felt unwelcome in predominantly white neighborhoods, and vice versa.
Putting such realities in the past is the main goal of Leila Almanza, originally from San Antonio, Texas. She explained how the Atchison Giving Tree Project serves the complementary goals of helping those in need and establishing BSU and Benedictine readiness, as a place where everyone can have a home.
“Our mission is to help students through community engagement, academics and social services,” she said. “So I think giving that kind of example is a great way to start.”