By Harold Crawford, Staff Writer

The Big Event! is an annual event hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Students of Service (SOS) in an effort to impact one place in the St. Louis Metro in a big way. This year, it took place on September 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the University of Missouri-St. Louis partnered with Great Rivers Greenway and Bridgeton Park Recreation center to clean the park trail ways, chopping invasive bush like honeysuckle, and planting bioswale with native plants.

Many UMSL students attended to show support and do charitable work for the environment. Eighty percent of the attendees were UMSL students. The trail length for litter pickup was 4.7 miles and was a paved surface. Volunteers were asked to wear comfortable clothes that cover to reduce risk of poison ivy with boots or hard sneakers.

Aleathea Williams, junior, political science, explained why students might participate in this event. Williams said, “[The Big Event! 2017] allow[s] students a chance to get know organizations on campus, and a chance to do community service.”

Volunteers arrived at the Millennium Student Center for check-in, breakfast, and a brief program at 8:30 a.m. before being disbursed to the sites via charter buses at 9:45 a.m. Lunch was provided on the site and volunteers received a t-shirt on a first-come, first-served basis.

SGA President Sean Burkett, senior, psychology, said, “I think working with the Bridgeton Park was a great opportunity for UMSL students to build better community relations. They now know that we are here and that we want to help. Any other projects they have coming up they know they can come to us now, things like that are vital for UMSL when we’re looking to reach out to the community. We can donate all day long to charities, but it’s really important to get out there and actually do some of that hard work that some people don’t want to do.”

Some of the student volunteers planting at the Big Event. Photo by the Associated Black Collegians.

Audrey Taylor, senior, business administration attended as a member of PRIZM and Alpha Phi Omega. Taylor is a member of prism and Alpha Phi Omega. Taylor said, “I got put in a group that was picking up branches and picking up litter along the path. We cut branches and threw them out of the way so people could easily walk through the pathway… I’d do it again it was a great event and I hope more people can get involved.”

London Williams, senior, liberal studies, is an SGA Senator. London Williams said, “We got to get out in the field which a lot of people don’t have the option to do. We got a chance to work together and build unity and connections between each other.” London picked up trash, trimmed bushes, and went on a safe walk to point out dangerous spots for pedestrians. He said one thing he learned was that “Everything doesn’t have to revolve around monetary benefits and things. Sometimes you got to just get out and give to your community. I plan to use what I learned from the event and use it in my career in the future.  He also says, everybody should come out next year and experience this.”

Burkett said, “I was helping with the crew that was cutting down honeysuckle, and it was a very hot day. My allergies were killing me but I still had fun. I know way more about invasive species, and I wouldn’t mind doing it more often it will help native species grow and help our ecosystem.”

Aleathea Williams is the Event Director for SGA and the Vice President of the Associated Black Collegians and helped organize the event. She volunteered gardening and really enjoyed it, but she said she learned more in depth about planning events and processes. She said, “I had to come up with designs for the shirts, order food and drinks, visit the site, and work with Students of Service.”

Her advice to those planning any events in the future is to use your resources. She found out a little late that she could have gotten donations, which would have been able to save her money for the SGA budget. Aleathea Williams suggested students should be proactive about getting things done ahead of time and to use references from previous years. She also suggested students should bring something fresh to the event.