Thirty years of Project Impact

Often, the most valuable lessons learned by Union College students are not taught in a classroom. They aren’t found in any textbook, and class attendance isn’t required. In fact, for some lessons, class will be canceled.

On September 8, more than 800 students and employees will voluntarily swap pencils and paper for paintbrushes and cleaning supplies for the 30th anniversary of Project Impact, the college's service day. “We want to be God’s hands and feet,” said Anna Coridan, junior nursing major and 2011 Project Impact coordinator. 

Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, will be in Lincoln to celebrate the milestone, along with Dean Hubbard, the former Union College president instrumental in launching the annual service day in 1981.

Originally dubbed "Project BRUSH" (Beautifying Residences Using Student Help), the day off from school was established to encourage students to get off campus and into the Lincoln community. Project BRUSH painted more than 100 homes in 10 years. Eventually, driven by a campus-wide desire to do more, Project BRUSH evolved into Project Impact, a day focused on aiding more than 50 Lincoln agencies which serve the community all year long.

Coridan herself learned a valuable lesson during last year’s Project Impact. Recently returned from spending a school year teaching in Nepal, she felt unsure that her Project Impact experience would measure up to her missions work.

“My time overseas was so special,” said Coridan. “I was able to help so many empty people. Back in Lincoln, I felt like we were all content in our bubbles. It’s easy to have barriers that make everything appear to be okay.”

Her Project Impact group was assigned to the Lighthouse—an after school program which provides positive youth programming designed to increase the likelihood that Lincoln students will graduate from high school. “My experience at the Lighthouse stopped me in my tracks,” Coridan said of her encounter with so many struggling young people. “It made me realize that no matter where I go, there are people who need help.”

Because service learning is incorporated in many aspects of Union’s campus culture, countless Union students can relate to Coridan’s encounter. After participating in events like Project Impact, many choose to volunteer at local agencies during the school year, volunteer overseas or find careers in service-oriented industries.

“Project Impact takes the focus off ourselves for a day,” says Coridan. “It’s a whole day to realize the needs of others. If we aren’t looking, we can pass right by people with real hurts and needs.”

Each year, more than 80 percent of the campus family participates in Project Impact, an event planned, coordinated and executed by students. Since it’s inception, an estimated 17,500 volunteers have impacted Lincoln with more than 111,000 hours of voluntary labor over the last 30 years. According to available research, Project Impact is the longest running collegiate service day with the highest percentage of campus participants in the nation.

The event begins under the clock tower on the front of campus at 8:15 a.m.