Wittenberg Student Discovers Passion For Service, Direction For Future
Springfield, Ohio – Although all Wittenberg University students must perform community service before enjoying their moment in the sun on graduation day in picturesque Commencement Hollow, not all students look forward to scheduling it. Chris Gipson, class of 2011 from Naperville, Ill., had participated in service events previously, but he was not eager to add a 30-hour service project to his work load.
“Honestly, I was not that hot-to-trot on the community service requirement,” Gipson said. “I selected the Infusion Campus, an after-school program for elementary and middle school kids, grounded in fine arts, as my site choice. My background in the fine arts is not strong, although I have always thrived when working with kids. I entered Infusion on my first day hesitant and mild-mannered, and left four hours later enthused and inspired.”
Many of the young boys attending Infusion Campus come from single-mother households and benefit from having a positive male role-model. Six years of experience coaching youth lacrosse players gave Gipson the background and skills necessary to relate with the boys in a constructive manner while having fun.
Gipson’s time at the Infusion Campus was highlighted by an experience with a young boy from a single-mother home who was desperate for an older brother/father figure, and he quickly gravitated towards Gipson. One day at the beginning of a program, the speaker snapped her fingers as part of her talk. The child slid closer to Gipson to ask how she had done that.
“Initially, I was confused about what he was asking, but when he put his fingers together awkwardly, I gathered that he was trying to snap them,” Gipson said. “Helping to position his hand properly, I showed him how to take his thumb and middle finger and strike them against one another. Third time was the charm as he made a distinct snapping sound. His entire face lit up in a smile.”
The moment was an epiphany for Gipson as he realized the possibilities before him.
“Moments like these and people like everyone involved at Infusion are what helped me discover my calling in life,” he said.
Gipson came to Wittenberg as a transfer student from Ursinus College in Pennsylvania the fall of his sophomore year. With a major in English and a political science minor, he has earned the Sigma Tau Delta International Honor Society for English and serves as the vice president of the honorarium. A Provost Scholar both Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 semester, he is also a Top-25 Junior Student Athlete. In addition, Gipson serves as a Peer Helper and a member of the Wittenberg Literature and Art Review staff.
With a passion for lacrosse, Gipson has been a member of Wittenberg men’s lacrosse team for the past three years and is a member of the Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athletic Honor Society. He played a key role for the Tigers as they won the first North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) title in program history – he appeared in 14 of the team’s 15 games, starting three, and he ranked seventh in scoring with five goals and five assists for 10 total points.
With plans to remain involved in non-profit organizations, Gipson hopes to eventually become a college admission counselor and lacrosse coach. Several months after beginning his community service requirement, Gipson became a student coordinator for the Community Service Office.
“I believe that by keeping an open mind students will be able to learn things about themselves that go way beyond the capabilities of the classroom,” Gipson said. “For me, community service began as a requirement and rapidly became a passion that has positively altered the course of my life.”
Written By: Phyllis Eberts and Amber Reyes ’12
Photo By: Erin Pence