Virtually Local: Ravens Served City in Pandemic

The Benedictine mission of community, faith and scholarship transformed culture in Europe at the dawn of Western Civilization and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, believes it can do the same in America today. To Transform Culture in America, Benedictine College plans to Form its students deeply in the mission, Advance its mission through alumni in every walk of life, and Extend its mission regionally and nationally.

When students went home for the lockdown last spring, Karen Wood knew what to do with her Sociology class at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Wood used the first week of online classes to help her students understand what was happening worldwide and why. Students read news articles, cataloged the changes due to the pandemic, and tried to understand who was affected by it, and how.

But Wood wanted to do more. “If we only study the problems and are not part of the solution, we are not being true to our Benedictine values,” Wood told Meredith Doyle, the director of Service Learning at Benedictine College.

The official list of Benedictine College Values starts with Jesus Christ and ends with Ora et Labora (Prayer and Work).

“Before long, she found a way to reach out,” Doyle reported in the Benedictine College Service Learning newsletter. “The Boys and Girls Club of Atchison needed help.”

The club wanted to provide online programming for its members who were suddenly stuck at home. They knew where to look for it, said Assistant Director, Jasmine Smith. Benedictine College students help at the club nearly every afternoon. Why couldn’t they also visit virtually?

“We knew that bringing them on board for this project was the right thing to do,” Smith said.

Wood agreed. When offered “the opportunity to serve the Boys and Girls Club … it made sense for my students to be involved in it as it is one solution to the problems they had just studied.”

Benedictine’s recently acquired digital platform for organizing service opportunities, GivePulse, allowed students to see the different kinds of videos needed and sign up for the ones they wanted.

“I was surprised at the number of students that quickly signed up to help and how fast they returned their content,” Smith said. “The content that the students created was fun, exciting, and refreshing.”

Leandra Morgenthaler, a junior from Glenco, Mo., was one of the first to join the project.

“This is a little way to make a big difference,” she said “and it’s fun for both parties” For her videos, the biology major read the book Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae — and prepared a tutorial on how to make a healthy and delicious fruit pizza.

“Leandra’s content was awesome” said Smith. “Her energy throughout both of her videos was amazing.”

Morgenthaler hopes the help they gave the students will have longtime consequences by influencing the community of Atchison with the community-building of Benedictine College.

“Decisions that seem very personal, such as going to college or choosing a career, are in fact influenced by a variety of social factors,” she added. She hopes their contact with the mission of Benedictine College — community, faith, and scholarship — “encourages them to become the best versions of themselves.”

She added: “This is a simple way to remind the kids … that they are valued!”

Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.