No two community service experiences are alike — and this fall’s Middle School Day of Service got off to a very special start thanks to keynote speaker Vic Bell ’74, who shared his own experiences volunteering with a number of local nonprofits and encouraged students to find an organization that serves a cause or fills a need they’re passionate about.
Bell, who is president of Marjan Ltd, his family’s real estate firm, has a long and distinguished record of service to the community. He has served as the board president for the Boys and Girls Club of Wake County and as chairman of the board for the YMCA of the Triangle, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the College and Raleigh Little Theatre. He also served on Ravenscroft’s Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1991. He was awarded the Ravenscroft Alumni Association’s first Distinguished Alumni Award in 1989.
He joined Middle School language arts teacher Renee Pitchford, who spearheaded the Day of Service, and eighth-graders Wyatt Kenady, Ashvik Poli and Mila Sharkady for a Q&A in Jones Theatre before advisory groups headed out to their respective service locations. In response to the panel’s questions, he talked about how some of his earliest opportunities for community service came while he was a student here. One of those early experiences — volunteering with the downtown Raleigh Boys and Girls Club — turned into a decades-long commitment to supporting the work the nonprofit does with young people. He said of that connection and his subsequent service with the YMCA of the Triangle:
That’s what appealed me. When you go out today, you want to think about it: do you like the nonprofit you’re working with today, or would you rather work with a different kind of nonprofit? Nonprofits are a whole other world — it’s like an adventure throughout life that you want to find out about. Where do you want to be involved? I want to encourage you to be involved with nonprofits throughout your lives, not just in middle school and high school.
He also urged students to make an effort to connect with the people they might meet when they’re engaging in service. “Be kind, be open,” he said. “You don’t always know what people are going through, and if you’re friendly and open, they might open up to you.”
“We were honored to have Vic Bell serve as our morning keynote speaker,” Pitchford said of his time with students. “His message really resonated with our Middle School community, particularly as he explained how we can show empathy on a daily basis and ways we can work together to positively impact the lives of others.”
Following the gathering in Jones Theatre, advisory groups fanned out across campus and out into the local community to engage in several hours of meaningful service. Some of the organizations students partnered with include Note in the Pocket, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, The Great Raleigh Cleanup, Lasagna Love, Ryan’s Case for Smiles and Frankie Lemmon School.
Pitchford said the day was all about putting Lead From Here into action to serve the community and learn something about themselves.
“Through our Lead From Here framework, we encourage students to lead self, lead with others and change their world. Our service days offer a chance to demonstrate these characteristics through outreach to over a dozen agencies across Raleigh,” she concluded. “Today, we spent our service day focused on collaborating to make a positive impact in the lives of others, and our students came back from their projects excited to serve again.”