NOVA Serves: 9/11 We Remember

Introduction: Located approximately five miles from the Pentagon, the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is prepared to fulfill the promise of the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance 10th Anniversary Challenge. Many of our faculty and staff were teaching and working when our nation came under attack on that fateful day. NOVA is one of the most internationally diverse colleges in the United States, with a student body consisting of individuals from more than 180 countries, and also has substantial student veteran population, some of who take classes off-campus at the Pentagon, itself. Moreover, several of the veteran students have served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and/or Operation Iraq Freedom (OIF).

All of our students, military veterans and civilians, are compassionate individuals who continuously seek opportunities in which they can give back to their communities. NOVA is committed to bringing students, faculty, staff, and community members together in the spirit of diversity, passion, patriotism, community, and service. NOVA is committed to furthering the President’s noble call to service, United We Serve. Lastly, NOVA is committed to enlivening the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009’s goal “to support institutions of higher education that engage students in community service activities and provide high-quality service-learning opportunities” (Title I, Subtitle A, Sec. 1101)

Background: In 2010 and 2011, NOVA hosted a Martin Luther King, Jr.,(MLK) Day of Service at various community project sites and successfully engaged over 700 volunteers in service. One service event centered on a school supply drive in partnership with Operation International Children (OIC). Students, faculty and community volunteers assembled school supply kits were assembled and sent to OIC, who forwarded the kits to US troops to distribute to needy Afghan and Iraqi school children. The NOVA volunteers also wrote letters to soldiers and Marines expressing their gratitude and appreciation for their humanitarian work and service to our country. In 2011, NOVA partnered with the United Services Organization (USO) and assembled care packages for US troops. Additionally, for the past 2 ½ years, NOVA has been an active partner in the Honor Flight Network program, which bring World War II veterans to visit their memorial in Washington, D.C. Students and faculty greet veterans at the airport as the veterans arrive. The NOVA Band has also performed patriotic music at several of these events, making it a very touching and memorable occasion for the greatest generation. These experiences have prepared a solid foundation for NOVA to host a September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance event that will involve a large number of volunteers and one that will have a positive impact on our local and global community.

Organizations that will be involved in the service activity: NOVA staff and faculty; NOVA Student Leadership Clubs; Operation International Children (OIC), American Red Cross, Arlington Public Schools, Alexandria Public Schools, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)

Addressing a community need/challenge: NOVA plans to address this challenge by holding several service projects in the days prior to and after September 11th. On Friday, September 10th, an Act of Kindness service activity will be held on campus. Students, faculty, and staff will be encouraged to commit to at least one “Act of Kindness” in commemoration of 9/11/2001. On Sunday, September 11th, students, faculty, staff, and community members (to include K-12 students) will come together to assemble school supply kits in partnership with OIC. On Monday, September 12th, a blood drive will be held on campus in partnership with our local Red Cross. Commemorating the losses on September 11, 2001 and honoring the service and sacrifices of those who have responded since that day: NOVA will pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11 as well as those military members who protect our community. On Sunday, September 11th, a moment of silence and reflection led by student leaders will be held prior to the school supply service project. Local fire fighters, policemen, first responders, and military members will also be invited to this event as an appreciation for their service. Number of volunteers expected: 500 volunteers are expected to participate in at least one or more service activity events.

What volunteers are expected to accomplish through their service: As a result of participating in these service activities, volunteers will gain a sense of pride in their community and country. Volunteers who participated in NOVA’s 2010 and 2011 MLK Day of Service events expressed a satisfaction in their contribution and an interest in volunteering again in the future. It is NOVA’s hope that by providing more volunteer opportunities, NOVA students will connect with their community, their school, and their fellow students. Volunteer opportunities will increase the civic engagement of NOVA students and increase the likelihood that they will continue volunteering in the future. In addition to improving student’s civic skills, volunteer opportunities will improve student’s academic success and their rate of degree completion. NOVA knows that providing these volunteer opportunities to students will help them be involved and successful citizens in their communities and will keep the need to remember September 11th alive.

Promotional Efforts: In addition to the traditional marketing efforts (flyers, emails, webpages), NOVA will engage in promoting the service activity by utilizing social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs. These same tools will be used to document and share stories and provide volunteers an opportunity to reflect on the importance of 9/11 remembrance and service to our community. Videos will be created to showcase the service projects as well as serve as a reflection activity for students. The reflection videos will be used as an instructional tool for faculty to use in courses that incorporate diversity, history, and social issues. All of these proposed activities are scalable, sustainable, and measurable. NOVA plans to extend this challenge across all six campuses over the next four years. The outcomes of these service activities will also assist in advancing the impetus for diversity, passion, patriotism, community, and service to our local and global community.