By Becca Kronebusch
As the heat of summer is in full swing and UNC students begin to fill the quad, many ambitious first-years stepped into the local community for three days of service through the APPLES Service-Learning Initiative: Launch, or SLI. For these students, service was the most meaningful way to get to know and give back to their neighbors in the Chapel Hill community.
SLI is a student-led program that introduces incoming first-year and transfer students to service in the local Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. This year, 64 SLI participants focused on sustainability and gave more than 576 service hours to eight community partners. Each student was assigned to three different sites over the course of three days.
Will Melfi, a first-year student at UNC, was one of many SLI participants who promoted sustainability by cleaning up Carrboro High School’s garden.
“I joined SLI because during high school I never found enough time to give back to the community,” Melfi said. “It’s really been a great experience and opportunity to get a jumpstart into giving back to this community that I’m invested in.”
At East Chapel Hill High School, students set up and decorated teachers’ classrooms to make the school year transition seamless. Teachers shared that they felt a weight lifted off of their shoulders with every desk, chair and poster in place. For participants, SLI is not a one-time event; they plan to continue serving the community through more organizations on campus.
“I’ve had such a great time, and I love this program and can’t wait to be more involved,” Melfi said.
In addition to giving back to the community, SLI help participants develop leadership skills. The program is entirely student-led to help empower and inspire students to become better, forward-thinking leaders. Abby Gostling, a junior global studies and economics double major from Raleigh, began as a participant in SLI and worked her way up to become one of this year’s co-chairs.
“I have really been able to gain a comprehensive view of what it takes to make a three-day service program like this happen,” Gostling said. “I have grown immensely in my ability to think through all of the details of a situation to make sure everything is addressed and to be a better problem solver on the spot.”
Gostling added that she is thankful that SLI gave her the opportunity and passion to become a leader in the Carolina community. She added that she is confident that this year’s SLI participants will go on to become resilient future leaders.