Small School. Big Impact.

Can a small university in a small town in a small state in the middle of America truly make a difference? We believe the answer is YES! These are difficult times. Now, more than ever, it seems people are struggling with uncertainty and discouragement. Leave it to a group of teenagers at the National Leadership Forum at Harding University to come up with an idea that now impacts more than 500,000 people. For more than 50 years, the American Studies Institute at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., has been hosting the National Leadership Forum for high school juniors and seniors from across the country. This group of visionary group of teenagers identified a common problem facing youth and society today - discouragement. These students felt the best way to combat many of the negative problems facing society was to confront the issues at their root. They created a national day of encouragement around which Americans of all ages and races may unite. When asked what event had impacted their lives the most, their answer was 9/11. The date of September 12 was chosen purposefully to bring encouragement to our country following the aftermath and devastation that we faced as a nation. Today, the President, Senate, and cities representing 33 states have formally recognized the National Day of Encouragement. In its fifth year, the National Day of Encouragement is on its way to becoming a movement as more and more people are inspired to make a positive difference by offering encouraging words, acts of kindness, inspiration and support to the people in their lives. DaySpring cards has partnered again with the Encouragement Foundation located at Harding University to celebrate the National Day of Encouragement and are giving a half-million encouragement cards to their retail customers the week of Sept. 5. Each person who picks up one of these free cards can provide encouragement that uplifts and inspires. Can one person make a difference? Absolutely!  We are working with Searcy Fire Dept. ladies auxilliary in securing funds for a 9/11 Memorial.  A beam from the WTC is in Searcy and will be installed with flags representing the 343 firefighters and paramedics who lost their lives. Harding University's mission is devoted to service. Each year, more than 2,300 students roll up their sleeves and volunteer on a Day of Service. The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognized Harding again with students logging in 168,322 service hours in 2010. We look forward to participating in the single largest day of service and identify the unmet need in starting an organization like the Hands on Network. Harding University could mobilize more volunteers by becoming an affiliate. Our goal is to continue to be a catalyst and inspire. Twelve Arkansas colleges were invited to participate in the 9/11 challenge. We will work with our local media, schools, hospitals, alumni and businesses to rally 5,000 together for this worthy cause. We are tracking volunteers by having them register on-line and in the alumni office. Our mayor is on board.  On September 9, a tribute will be held with 2,975 students representing and  remembering the people who lost their lives with moments of silence as the time of each horrific event occurred. Recently, Harding University partnered with Greenkeepers Garden Club and the Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs and installed a Blue Star Memorial on campus. The Blue Star Memorial program began in 1944 as a living memorial to veterans of World War II. In 1945, the National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted the program and began a Blue Star Highway system throughout America. The program now includes all men and women who have served, are currently serving, and will serve in the armed services of the United States. Around that memorial, 2,975 American flags will be installed representing the individuals who were killed on September 11, 2011. Patriotic buntings will be placed on the fences facing one of Searcy’s busiest streets. We would like to enhance this area with a 9/11 memorial garden. Partnering with our city, county and alumni all over the world, volunteers will provide a number of services by helping those in need as a tribute to the 9/11 victims and heroes on Saturday, September 10. Harding students will collect quarters, go to local laundromats and surprise families by paying for the washing and drying of their clothes as well as helping them fold their items. Local firefighters, EMTs and police will be treated with cookies and thank you notes. Candy bars will be taken to people in jail with a note of encouragement. Random acts of kindness will be encouraged throughout the weekend. Veterans will be acknowledged and thanked by visiting their clinic in town. Foster children will be remembered by replenishing toiletries and pajamas for their duffel bags. Volunteers will work at the Sunshine School and the White County Group Home for developmentally challenged children and adults. Hope Cottage offers a safe haven for women who are victims of domestic violence. Students will restock their pantries. A patriotic salute and tribute will be held at Harding University on Sunday, September 11, with 2,000 people expected. This is significant because our community came together at this same location 10 years ago following the attacks upon our country. On October 6, firefighter and inspirational speaker Richard Picciotto who was an FDNY Battalion Commander in Manhattan on 9/11 will be on campus to tell his story. At Harding University, we are proud of our American heritage and encourage our students, alumni and community to get involved in serving others by paying back or forward with good deeds. By imprinting the memories of 9/11 and remembering the sacrifices of the men and women who died as a tribute, we are compelled to make a difference and are reminded that freedom is not free.