Although many students go home for summer break, many also choose to stay in Searcy to experience what they refer to as a “Searcy summer,” hoping to get involved in the community.
Senior Toria Adkison from Cincinnati, Ohio has spent three summers in the Searcy community as a college student. Adkison said that she moved to Searcy the week after graduating high school to start working at Kibo Midnight Oil Coffeehouse and loved her experience.
She said getting involved with her church by joining the worship team and spending time talking with customers at Midnight Oil helped her get to know Searcy locals and grow to love the community. She also said spending time with families from her church who took her in was a good way to get to know people.
“I really liked just sitting there [at Midnight Oil] and talking with people,” Adkison said. “… People here are really good about noticing college students when they’re here alone.”
Senior Bailey Warpula has spent her year working with people who are homeless at Jacob’s Place and Mission Machine for her field placement as a social work major, which has sparked her interest in community volunteering. She said there is a huge need for students to bridge the gap between Harding and the Searcy community through volunteering.
Warpula said there are many needs right around the corner in Searcy that she did not see until this year, and she wishes that she had gotten involved sooner. She said she would tell those interested in getting involved to be willing to do research, whether that be getting plugged into a church, finding a job in town or just Googling “volunteer options.”
“Find something you’re passionate about and research it,” Warpula said. “And you’ll feel excited to do it.”
Warpula also encouraged students to get involved outside their comfort zone and just start somewhere.
“Everybody has an hour on their Saturday,” Warpula said. “Wake up one hour early, and go do something that’s not for yourself … go take the step … and you’ll realize — it’s not that scary; it’s not that hard.”
Adkinon warned not to overload yourself by being involved in too many things. She said that she wishes she would have truly invested herself in a few things well and not spread herself so thin.
Main Street Searcy Director Amy Burton said that some opportunities for students to integrate themselves into the community over the summer will include helping small businesses with renovations, helping with kids’ activities at the farmer’s market or volunteering with the Office of Community Connection.
She added that students can go to mysearcy.org to learn about more volunteer opportunities or submit their name along with their community interests.
“… if they just want to get in and put their contact information, then as projects and assignments come around, then we can reach out to them,” Burton said.