Waco community to be served through a distinct Steppin’ Out experience this year

Steppin' Out is still happening this year, but with some key differences to keep the community as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lariat file photo

By Mallory Harris | Reporter

Without the usual buzz around campus due to the pandemic, service opportunities for students have been in short supply. However, Baylor’s Academy for Leadership Development is moving forward with Steppin’ Out for this semester. Incorporating activities students can participate in both physically and virtually, Steppin’ Out still intends on serving the greater Waco community.

In previous years, there has been a date set for Steppin’ Out for both the spring and fall semesters. However, due to COVID-19, this past spring semester was cut short, and Steppin’ Out happened virtually, renamed to the Steppin’ In Challenge to motivate students to serve wherever they may be.

While surveying the coronavirus, this semester’s team is still encouraging students to serve by themselves, with their housemates, or virtually. Mito Diaz-Espinoza, the associative director for civic learning initiatives, explained how important it is to go out into the community and serve during this time.

“I think the biggest piece of advice that we want to share is that as much as [students] feel tired and fatigued and bored and frustrated with safety precautions, that there’s a lot of other people in the community who also feel that way and they have other needs as well,” Diaz-Espinoza said.

As Baylor strives to integrate service into every part of campus life, many students tend to look forward in anticipation of events like Steppin’ Out. Minneapolis, Minn., sophomore Sam Alexon explained how her experience last fall was an uplifting experience to help others out and to get to know new people.

“I participated in Steppin’ Out because I thought it would be a fun way to give back to the community,” Alexon said. “It was so fun to be with friends and others from the dorm that I hadn’t gotten a chance to meet yet. It was a cool bonding experience.”

Last fall, there were partnerships with Keep Waco Beautiful and Office of General Counsel, as well as sponsorships from Home Depot and Brothers Management to provide tools, water and other needed supplies.

This semester, those interactions look a little different. Students can be digital volunteers with Project Gutenberg or with Bookshare, they can participate in donation drives or act as an encouragement for those in nursing homes or in isolation.

“A lot of the virtual [projects] we kind of found in a search looking for opportunities,” Diaz-Espinoza said. “We knew there were organizations that had a request who had a need for virtual programming because of the population they work with, but they still had a need for service.”

While this year’s Steppin’ Out is different from past experiences, the goal of serving the community is still at the center as noted on their website. Plans for a Steppin’ Out event in the spring are yet to come as COVID-19 may still play a large role during that time. The planning committee is requiring students to register prior to participating in any events, which students can do on their website.

“It makes somebody else’s life a little easier and a little better, and I promise that doing service to others, you undoubtedly will feel better as well,” Diaz-Espinoza said. “It’s just therapeutic and cathartic to be able to give back and share your blessings with others.”