January 13, 2014
Drury University has been a fixture of the Midtown landscape for more than 100 years, and faculty, staff and students like to find ways to positively impact the lives of the university’s neighbors.
Through a volunteer program called Drury Neighborhood Activities, or DNA, the university community provides nearby Boyd Elementary School students with mentoring, access to fun outdoor activities and —during the holidays —a little bit of joy. Each year, several campus departments sponsor families in need.
The impact is significant, says Boyd’s school nurse, Laura Smith, a key organizer at the school.
“When you’ve got new clothes to wear, you feel good about coming to school,” Smith says. “When you’ve got a new coat, you feel excited to go outside and play. It’s that simple.”
Smith helps identify families that could use a hand. They don’t ask for help, she says. But they are grateful. One of the families that has been helped included a student recently diagnosed with a serious illness.
Brian Shipman, a Drury video instructor and a DNA organizer, says holiday gifts for families ranged from video games and bikes to clothes and even turkey dinners. Gifts were delivered personally —no secret Santas here.
“I want them to be in the neighborhood, meet the people and get a good handle on what the neighborhood is like,” Shipman says.
Summer activities involve float trips and weekly swimming at Silver Springs Park. Students learn to swim and build confidence. With more than five years under its belt, DNA is bringing back program alums now in high school to participate as counselors.
“One of the founding principles of this partnership has been the philosophy that …there’s no significant learning without a significant relationship,” says Boyd Principal James Grandon. “To me, that speaks volumes about the kind of community that Boyd, Drury and the Midtown neighborhood have put together.”
This story was published in the Campus Notes section of the Springfield News-Leader on Jan. 13, 2014.