Two years ago, Clemson University’s Division of Student Affairs created the Office of Advocacy and Success. At its core, the office works to inspire an individual sense of belonging, student success and retention. It collaborates with students, families, campus and community partners, faculty and staff to empower Clemson students to achieve academic and personal success.

The United Way of Oconee County was established in 1966 and recently celebrated its 50th year serving the local community. Its core mission is direct … fight for the education, financial stability and health of all Oconee citizens.

Dr. Kimberly Poole grew up in nearby Seneca, South Carolina, where she was engaged in a number of activities — from cheerleading to student government to band — at Seneca High School. In a way, her love for Oconee County never left.

With a staff development retreat around the corner, Clemson’s director of Advocacy and Success and associate dean of students was searching for an opportunity to merge the work of her office with that of the local community.

“I was part of the first class of the President’s Leadership Institute,” Poole explained. “One of our focuses is servant leadership. We are encouraged to do anything we can with the time we have to try and make even the smallest difference.”

Poole touched base with LaShauna Harrison, chief executive officer of United Way of Oconee County. Harrison and her staff recently implemented a feed and read camp aimed at the continued educational success and nutrition of Oconee children and youth throughout the summer. After talking, the two decided to bring in the Advocacy and Success staff for a meaningful community service initiative.

“When I told Kimberly how many Clemson students were involved in volunteering with our program, she wanted her staff to be a part of it as well,” Harrison said. “I’m grateful to Clemson University students and interns with Heath’s Haven, another program of the United Way of Oconee, for the volunteer help they’ve poured into making this program a success.”

On Tuesday of this week, Poole was joined by full-time staff Chana Land, Kathy Cauthen and Tina Weaver, as well as graduate assistant QuiAnne’ Holmes, at the United Way office in downtown Seneca for a 90-minute visit. There, the team met with Harrison and the student volunteers and interns to help a group of 12 children in the UWOC summer feed and read camp with a career goal-oriented exercise.

“Some of the youth have varying life experiences,” Poole said. “Many that our department serve at Clemson on a daily basis are facing a challenge, and we try and help them manage the situation to be successful.”

Tuesday’s objective was to have each child create a “vision board” — a poster board decorated with magazine cutouts and various items depicting a career target — with the help of a Clemson staffer and student volunteer.

Office of Advocacy and Success director and associate dean of students Kimberly Poole

Office of Advocacy and Success director and associate dean of students Kimberly Poole and her staff worked with local children at a recent community service project with United Way of Oconee County.
Image Credit: Philip Sikes

“For these young children, we tried to help them understand what types of classes and subjects they needed to study to get there,” Poole said. “We tried to address a variety of things while helping them think bigger about their goals and dreams.”

After the boards were created, each child shared his or hers at the front of the room and explained how the vision came together to depict their desired career.

One of the Clemson students involved in the process was Alyssa Bush, a rising senior from Greenville. Bush is a biological sciences major, but is pursuing a minor in nonprofit leadership. She is currently interning with UWOC, and Tuesday’s visit from Advocacy and Success simply reiterated why she became involved in the first place.

“This was an awesome experience, to see the kids get into it,” Bush said. “They talk about what they want to be often, but to see them put it to life on a poster board and be so excited to present it and let their peers see it, was rewarding.”

And it was rewarding for Poole and her staff to see the impact Clemson students had on the next generation of youth, much like the everyday work produced by Advocacy and Success.

“We often talk about how great our students are at Clemson, but this gave us a chance to see them in action and work beside them in something beyond Clemson University,” she said. “And that was really great.”