Georgian Court University student leaders jump start semester with service

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
Georgian Court University student leaders jump start semester with service
Georgian Court University student leaders jump start semester with service


By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

Except for the 60 or so student leaders assembled in the Casino of Lakewood’s Georgian Court University, the campus was nearly empty Jan. 19.

With the opening of the spring semester still three days away, students focused on service gave up their final free Friday to garner advice from noted motivational speaker Jeff Dessources on avoiding the easy way out, as well as spending the afternoon working on a number of community projects.

“The day speaks to our Catholic identity, and the time is good as the semester is just about to begin. It’s a time to remember and reflect on who we are,” said Amani Jennings, dean of students. “It’s an excellent way to start the semester.”

The annual leadership/service event, held in close proximity to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, included making scores of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for The Center in Asbury Park, a nonprofit that supports people living with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers; knitting and crocheting squares to be stitched into blankets distributed by Warm Up America, a national charity that distributes warm afghans to those in need, and making soft pull toys for cats and dogs awaiting homes in the Northern Ocean Animal Facility.

It’s an event that melds well with the Mercy Core values of respect, integrity, justice, compassion and service, Jennings said.

Dessources, known by college students nationwide as Mr. JeffDess, set the tone for the day, sharing his perspective on the nature of servant leadership.

Servant leadership is about focusing on being better individuals, he told the students who represented student government, Women in Leadership Development, Emerging Leaders, athletics, the Mercy Collegiate Society and various clubs.

“Yes,” he said, “it’s scary sometimes because being in our comfort zones can really be cool. Fear exists just as comfort zones exist. Recognize what that is, and you’ll learn how to overcome it,” said Dessources, director of campus life at New Jersey City University.

Dessources is the author of three books of poetry and the co-founder of Trill or Not Trill, an educational website that, integrates culturally relevant educational and leadership content with voices from pop culture.

While encouraging students to step up, Dessources explained that being a leader is never easy. Instead, people who are willing to lead have to “get comfortable with spaces that are uncomfortable – and conversations that are a little bit difficult,” he said, adding that too often, leaders are lulled into what’s easy and simple as they go about their day-to-day lives.

Ultimately, he said, students working in student government and leadership organizations are making an intangible investment in their future.

“Being involved now, and the level of involvement you are putting in now will make all the difference when you leave this place,” he offered. “I can’t stress the importance of involvement. From learning effective communication to public speaking, and being around different types of majors, different types of leaders – it all makes a difference.”

“As campus leaders, you may find yourself working with or sitting next to a future nurse, a future engineer, a future doctor, or a future graphic designer – leadership gives you diverse experiences,” Dessources said. “I’m telling you what I know: leadership experiences will change your life. It’s a fact.”

David Hamilton, a senior psychology major and student government vice president, was one of many who said they learned from Dessources’ talk. Hamilton found the speaker’s emphasis on maintaining good verbal communication skills in a time dominated by electronic communication very meaningful.

“Dessources gave interesting examples of how important it is in the current age of technology to understand the ways language is culturally interpreted,” he said.

Hamilton and other GCU students said they appreciated the inclusion of service projects to round out the day after the presentation and lunch. Erica Hutton, an English major, was one student clustered around a table knitting and crocheting squares for Warm Up America.

“It’s a good feeling, being able to give back,” Hutton said. “Coming back [to GCU] a day early, making blankets for people and toys for animals, was a day well spent.”

Senior Christina Morgese said the service session “makes you remember that no matter how busy you are, you can always put some effort into helping others.”

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By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

Except for the 60 or so student leaders assembled in the Casino of Lakewood’s Georgian Court University, the campus was nearly empty Jan. 19.

With the opening of the spring semester still three days away, students focused on service gave up their final free Friday to garner advice from noted motivational speaker Jeff Dessources on avoiding the easy way out, as well as spending the afternoon working on a number of community projects.

“The day speaks to our Catholic identity, and the time is good as the semester is just about to begin. It’s a time to remember and reflect on who we are,” said Amani Jennings, dean of students. “It’s an excellent way to start the semester.”

The annual leadership/service event, held in close proximity to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, included making scores of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for The Center in Asbury Park, a nonprofit that supports people living with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers; knitting and crocheting squares to be stitched into blankets distributed by Warm Up America, a national charity that distributes warm afghans to those in need, and making soft pull toys for cats and dogs awaiting homes in the Northern Ocean Animal Facility.

It’s an event that melds well with the Mercy Core values of respect, integrity, justice, compassion and service, Jennings said.

Dessources, known by college students nationwide as Mr. JeffDess, set the tone for the day, sharing his perspective on the nature of servant leadership.

Servant leadership is about focusing on being better individuals, he told the students who represented student government, Women in Leadership Development, Emerging Leaders, athletics, the Mercy Collegiate Society and various clubs.

“Yes,” he said, “it’s scary sometimes because being in our comfort zones can really be cool. Fear exists just as comfort zones exist. Recognize what that is, and you’ll learn how to overcome it,” said Dessources, director of campus life at New Jersey City University.

Dessources is the author of three books of poetry and the co-founder of Trill or Not Trill, an educational website that, integrates culturally relevant educational and leadership content with voices from pop culture.

While encouraging students to step up, Dessources explained that being a leader is never easy. Instead, people who are willing to lead have to “get comfortable with spaces that are uncomfortable – and conversations that are a little bit difficult,” he said, adding that too often, leaders are lulled into what’s easy and simple as they go about their day-to-day lives.

Ultimately, he said, students working in student government and leadership organizations are making an intangible investment in their future.

“Being involved now, and the level of involvement you are putting in now will make all the difference when you leave this place,” he offered. “I can’t stress the importance of involvement. From learning effective communication to public speaking, and being around different types of majors, different types of leaders – it all makes a difference.”

“As campus leaders, you may find yourself working with or sitting next to a future nurse, a future engineer, a future doctor, or a future graphic designer – leadership gives you diverse experiences,” Dessources said. “I’m telling you what I know: leadership experiences will change your life. It’s a fact.”

David Hamilton, a senior psychology major and student government vice president, was one of many who said they learned from Dessources’ talk. Hamilton found the speaker’s emphasis on maintaining good verbal communication skills in a time dominated by electronic communication very meaningful.

“Dessources gave interesting examples of how important it is in the current age of technology to understand the ways language is culturally interpreted,” he said.

Hamilton and other GCU students said they appreciated the inclusion of service projects to round out the day after the presentation and lunch. Erica Hutton, an English major, was one student clustered around a table knitting and crocheting squares for Warm Up America.

“It’s a good feeling, being able to give back,” Hutton said. “Coming back [to GCU] a day early, making blankets for people and toys for animals, was a day well spent.”

Senior Christina Morgese said the service session “makes you remember that no matter how busy you are, you can always put some effort into helping others.”

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