STRIVE provides leadership, growth opportunities

Most students sign up for housing hoping for a compatible roommate and a fun place to live. But for the 31 students living in building 34 in the on-campus apartments, meeting compatible roommates with similar interests is not just a hope, it’s a guarantee.

This year, the Serving Together Reaching Integrity, Values and Engagement, (STRIVE) program aims to combine on-campus living with mentoring and a concentration on social issues. All students involved with STRIVE have interests in volunteering and learning leadership skills.

The program was formulated after a group of UM students already involved in volunteering went on a weekend leadership retreat. While at the retreat, students brainstormed ideas to bring back to the university. What they came up with was a plan for a living and learning community that became STRIVE.

Keith “Fletch” Fletcher and Valerie Jones head the STRIVE program and try to keep the meetings lighthearted.

“Heck, I’ll let you count the paper clips in my desk drawer,” Fletcher said jokingly after a student voiced a concern about ample volunteer opportunities on campus.

Students discovered STRIVE when the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development sent out a flyer to all incoming freshmen outlining the program and describing the application process. Upperclassmen learned of STRIVE last semester during a two-week promotional period held for the program.

“I have always been involved [in volunteer service], and when I read what STRIVE was about, I felt like it just described me,” said Nikita Shiel-Rolle, a freshman and STRIVE member. The freshman had to go through a writing-intensive application process and an interview over the phone in order to be considered for the program.

Many students applied for STRIVE, but only a select few made the cut.

“We received 100 applications for only 15 upperclassmen slots,” said Fletcher, while commenting on the application process.

A similar amount of applications were received for only 16 freshmen slots.

To be an active member of STRIVE students must commit to volunteer for 24 hours each month and attend at least 10 educational programs each semester. Also, students must take a one-credit class designed specifically for leadership-oriented students.

“STRIVE is a really good opportunity to become well-rounded,” said Hector Cardielsan, a freshman STRIVE member.

If devoting time to community service is not enough to prove the value of STRIVE, the program also provides mentoring for the 16 freshmen members. Each freshman in STRIVE is matched with an upperclassman mentor with whom they can volunteer, ask questions or just recognize on campus after being bombarded with so many new and unfamiliar faces.

“You’re going to directly affect the legacy these students leave on the campus,” Fletcher said while talking to the upperclassmen members about their role as freshmen mentors.

Together, the students of STRIVE have become more of a family, and not just a community of students who enjoy volunteering.

Andrew Haines, a sophomore STRIVE member, recently suffered a death in his family and left the university for a brief period. He returned to support, care and a sympathy card which his 30 fellow STRIVErs signed.

Some upcoming events that the students of STRIVE plan to participate in are Ghandi Day of Service on Sept. 30 and a Campus Action Network event involving other South Florida colleges during the last weekend of September.

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at