Fun-filled homecoming week also packed with giving back

by | Feb 16, 2015

UMSL alumna Aleshia Patterson is youth programs coordinator at Pagedale Family Support Center, an organization that will benefit from UMSL Homecoming 2015.
UMSL alumna Aleshia Patterson

UMSL alumna Aleshia Patterson is youth programs coordinator at Pagedale Family Support Center, one of the local organizations that will benefit from service-driven events during UMSL Homecoming 2015. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When Aleshia Patterson participated in a food-pantry project with fellow Students of Service at the University of Missouri–St. Louis back in 2010, she didn’t expect the nonprofit where they volunteered to one day become her workplace.

Nor could she have predicted how her connection to that organization and to her alma mater would keep her so invested in the local community five years later. But the Pagedale Family Support Center sparked her interest that day, and Patterson is now in her second year serving as its youth programs coordinator.

While in that role, she’s also been an effective liaison between the nonprofit and UMSL as the two entities partner time and again to help those in need in the surrounding region.

During Homecoming week from Feb. 16 to 21 that tradition continues, with proceeds and donations from the annual chili feed and the campus’s first-ever CANstruction event benefiting the Pagedale center.

“CANstruction is going to stock our food pantry,” Patterson said, noting that the pantry provides food for 250 people each month. “That means members of our community will have one less thing to worry about.”

The contributions will also help support programs such as those Patterson oversees, including the daily Beyond Housing After-School Program and a six-week Freedom School that focuses on literacy.

“The people UMSL is helping to serve could be the very same people who come back as students,” she said. “I think UMSL is an asset to the community, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for this university.”

While her path into a community-oriented career has been somewhat unexpected, Patterson credits her time as an undergrad at UMSL as pivotal.

“My experience as a student was amazing,” Patterson said. “Individual faculty and staff saw potential in me and decided to help me cultivate my leadership skills.”

As a freshman, she “kind of jumped in headfirst” with involvement in student activities at UMSL. But when her grades started to suffer, Patterson said, she backed off for a while to devote more energy to her coursework.

“I think that’s really important for students to know,” she said. “You’re always a student before you’re a leader.”

After finding a better balance between her studies and extracurriculars, Patterson served as president of the Black Leadership Organizing Council and also as vice president of UMSL’s Student Government Association, among other roles.

She graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, along with a minor in media studies and a certificate in public relations.

But between her job in nearby Pagedale and acting as a site supervisor each semester for UMSL College of Education students gaining experience in community education, Patterson’s connection to campus remains as strong as ever.

“Any school can have a fun-filled homecoming week, but the fact that UMSL chooses to have fun and give back to the surrounding community as a big part of homecoming speaks volumes,” she said.

In addition to the chili feed and CANstruction events benefitting the Pagedale Family Support Center, there are several other service- and philanthropic-oriented events among the UMSL Homecoming 2015 festivities.

These include a homecoming blood drive, scholarship crowdfunding efforts by the homecoming court, donations to Girls Inc. through the Big Man on Campus event, and a service-project day with opportunities to volunteer throughout the St. Louis region.

Learn more at homecoming.umsl.edu.

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Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill

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