Surprise guest encourages student service

Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer
President Ken Starr shakes hands with former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards at Baylor’s Student Leadership Dinner Wednesday at the Blume Banquet Hall in Cashion Academic Center.

Chet Edwards speaks at Student Leadership Dinner

By Sara Tirrito
Staff Writer

Guests at Wednesday night’s inaugural Student Leadership Dinner were surprised with a visit by Chet Edwards, who made the dinner his first official public appearance since leaving office as congressman for District 17 this past November, a position he has held for the past 20 years.

“I planned for years [thinking] what would be the first public appearance I would want to make,” Edwards said. “I would want it to be with student leaders because student activities in college literally opened up the doors of opportunity for my service in Congress.”

Edwards said student activities and his involvement in college changed his life and led him to opportunities that might have otherwise eluded him.

Echoing a quote from Robert F. Kennedy, Edwards encouraged the students to realize every person can make a difference in the world.

“Each of you can be a ripple of hope,” Edwards said. “Each of you can make a difference in the lives of your family, your friends, people in this community while you’re here at Baylor and in the greater world when you leave.”

Other speakers at the dinner included Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life; Michael Wright, student body president; Virginia DuPuy, former mayor of Waco; and Baylor President Ken Starr.

The dinner was the first in what Wright said he hopes to be a series of dinners. Wright envisions a setting in which student leaders can better get to know one another.

In addition to forming relationships, students will be introduced to organizations they might otherwise be unaware of.

Various volunteer opportunities in the Waco community will be presented to the leaders of student groups on campus in an effort to get students more involved in the community.

“I want to challenge you to take one step further,” Wright said, “not merely to fill the needs of today, but to help build bridges to a brighter future, right here in our hometown of Waco, Texas.”

The volunteer opportunity presented at the dinner was with the Greater Waco Community Educational Alliance, an organization that has built a tutoring program in which volunteers read with students at a local elementary school for two hours a week.

DuPuy, executive director of the organization, encouraged students to become volunteers and to help tell the story of the organization and the work it is doing with the children at J.H. Hines Elementary School.

“Think about your life and what a rich life you have and the kind of experiences that you can share with the young people many of whom have never been out of Waco,” DuPuy said.

“Then you’ll meet some wonderful people — there are wonderful people working with this — you’ll expand your relationships, and as others have so eloquently said, you never know exactly what kind of experience is going to lead to another, to another, to another and to another. And it’s just, it’s the right thing to do.”

Starr, who volunteers with the group along with his wife, Alice, called on students to pray about not only their own involvement in the program, but that of others they know.

“We ask you, we urge you: sign up. Agree to become a mentor,” Starr said. “If you say, ‘I just can’t do it,’ then would you go find someone who will?”