Starting with Service: New Bush School Students Paint Eight Bryan Habitat for Humanity Homes

August 23, 2019

Students working high and low to paint the side of a Habitat for Humanity House
Students working high and low to paint the side of a Habitat for Humanity House

With classes starting in less than a week, orientation began Monday for the Bush School’s class of 2021.

To kick off the week, more than 150 members of the incoming class filed off buses in a north Bryan Habitat for Humanity neighborhood Monday morning, beginning their school year with a service project.

Their task: to serve the local community by painting the homes of eight Habitat for Humanity families.

“We’ve always tried to start off the year with an activity,” Assistant Director of the Public Service Leadership Program, Holly Kasperbauer, said. “Usually it’s oriented towards team building and leadership development exercises. This year, we wanted to lead off the new student orientation with a project that would have a positive impact on the community.”

When you walk into the Bush School, you’re almost immediately confronted with President George H. W. Bush’s famous mantra: “Public service is a noble calling….”

“The Bush School is all about public service—it’s ingrained in students, faculty, and staff,” Bush School Dean Mark Welsh said. “The idea of using this time during orientation not just to foster relationships among the students but also to serve the community in a meaningful way—I think it would make President Bush very proud.  ”

Students painting the beam of a porch

Students painting the beam of a porch

For the new students, it was a crash course in both the philosophy of the Bush School and an informal way to meet and interact with their new peers.

“I thought it was a great way to reinforce the importance of standing with the community,” Master of International Affairs student Izatullah Wardak said. “So often today we spend so much time on social media and on the internet that we forget the value of face-to-face meetings. Even though many of us have seen each other online, this was a great way to really meet our classmates.”

“It was absolutely a great way to start off our time at the Bush School,” Master of International Affairs student Ethan Freiermuth agreed. “The first thing we’re doing as students at Texas A&M is serving the community. It really frames our careers here at the Bush School and introduces us to the philosophy and expectations that go along with earning a degree here.”

Students work together to paint the side of a house

Students work together to paint the side of a house

Though breaks for water and time under shade trees were necessarily plentiful, the typical Texas August weather didn’t slow down the eager students, with many actually embracing the heat and humidity.

“I’m from northern Wisconsin, where winter lasts six months,” Freiermuth said with smile. “Where I’m from is further north than most Canadians live. I have a heat deficit and I’m loving this weather.”

After about three hours, dozens of gallons of paint, and plenty of elbow grease, the students admired the finished product and talked with Habitat for Humanity residents before loading back into buses bound for campus.

“These students rally embraced this project and our mission,” Kasperbauer said. “The class of 2021 showed that they really get the importance of public service. As we were finishing, we had neighbors walking up and asking how they can get on the list for next year. Traditions are a huge part of Texas A&M, and I think we’ve just successfully started a new one at the Bush School.”

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