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NSLS Success Stories, Leadership Development, Make a Better World, NSLS Chapter Spotlight

Pennsylvania Chapter Joins the Fight Against Child Hunger

Getting involved in the community and other large scale initiatives to better the world can be time consuming, but extending oneself in this way is what truly defines a leader.

Sue Brugh, Chapter Advisor at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College (PHCC), says that the chapter decided to throw their efforts and support behind an initiative that really spoke to them: the Cambria County Backpack Project (CCBP).

While the chapter had pitched in for CCBP events one to four times a year in the past, there was a new opportunity to step up their involvement and really prove their commitment to fighting child hunger.

The chapter’s association with the CCBP gave NSLS members who participated in the project an eye-opening glimpse of the threat that hunger and food insecurity poses to children and others.

Meeting a Growing Need to Keep Kids Fed

The CCBP’s mission is to provide local children with healthy, sustainable food options during the weekends, when kids don’t have the supplemental food safety net of school meals.

A number of nearby organizations pitch in, including 18 school districts in the area, several other campus groups, and over 300 volunteers. Funded by grants and donations, the CCBP packs shelf-stable and nonperishable items such as prepared meals, noodle cups, and granola bars, among other items, to help food-insecure children in the area stay fed and well.

By any measure, the CCBP is a big undertaking. Not only does it repeat services on a weekly basis while school’s in session, it also serves an impressive number of kids.

In the past school year, the group handed out 14,852 bags of food, representing over 89,000 meals for almost 700 kids. This is a highly demanding, ongoing commitment that requires weekly time and effort to pack the bags the kids would receive, and the NSLS chapter at Pennsylvania Highlands wanted to be part of it.


How Public Service Changes Lives

Working with another organization to achieve a common goal requires a range of leadership skills, including interpersonal communication and relationship-building. Brugh acknowledges this.

“Our first steps meant that we first had to establish a good working relationship with the CCBP, requiring strong communication and organizational skills, as well as dedication and reliability.”

That experience was certainly a positive one for the students who were involved, but it has also impacted Brugh as the Chapter Advisor on a personal level. Brugh especially appreciates the opportunity to observe the multifaceted growth that members undergo during their NSLS work.

“Seeing our members grow academically and personally into young adults who do great things is most valuable to me.”

Working with the NSLS and CCBP also impacted Brugh’s personal views on leadership, which continue to evolve, she says.

“Leadership to me means being that role model who hopes to shape the lives of others by what I do and not necessarily by what I say. Our mission of leadership is to transform our students into members that become better students and citizens while serving their communities and beyond.”

Broadening Your Perspective Can Lead to Positive Change

The NSLS encourages chapters and members to stretch their compassion muscles and look for ways to aid their communities and improve the lives of others, living our mission of building a better world through the spread of service and upskilling.

Trying new things leads to learning new skills, expanding perspectives, and creating better lives for all concerned. As Chapter Advisor, Brugh says she learned some things, too, including how widespread the problem of food insecurity among U.S. children really is.

She offers some advice for other Chapter Advisors who want to help their chapters make a positive impact.

“Do something that helps your members see life from the perspective of those less fortunate than yourself. Many do not even know that one in five children in our own county do not have enough food to eat.”


Expanding on Past Successes by Planning for the Future

Many NSLS chapters undertake big, challenging projects. A striking commonality among them is their interest in a very simple, but profound question: “What’s next?”

For the Pennsylvania Highlands Community College chapter, it's a combination of building on past successes and trying new things.

“We plan to continue to get our new members involved with the CCBP and continue our ongoing efforts to help conquer child hunger. We hope to sponsor a ‘Hoops for Hunger’ three-on-three basketball tournament to raise funds for the CCBP, which will be a big endeavor for our Penn Highlands chapter.”

Luckily, true leaders are up for any challenge or endeavor, if it means building a better world.

The Rio Salado College chapter of the NSLS also committed its time and energy to combating hunger. Read their story here.