Community Engagement

While receiving an exceptional healthcare education, students in the Gardner-Webb University College of Health Sciences have several opportunities to serve communities close to home and far away. Besides arranging international mission trips, the faculty coordinates events to connect students with local people who have limited access to health care.

Mobile Health Screening Ministry Bus

photo of the Mobile Health Screening Ministry Bus

Last spring, a partnership between the Hunt School of Nursing, N.C. Baptists on Mission (NCBM), and Crestview Baptist Church of Shelby, N.C. parked a mobile Health Screening Ministry bus at the NCBM Mission Camp in Shelby. The GWU faculty and students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Family Nurse Practitioner programs were joined by other professionals to offer a variety of nursing services. Church members donated lunch and snacks for the volunteers and participants. Leaders of the Women’s Mission Group at Crestview served the food and also helped with non-medical roles.

The activity is also a requirement for the Community Health class taught by Dr. Kathy Williams, assistant professor of nursing. “It’s really important for us to be here and to give back to the community,” observed a student in the class, senior Jesse Anne Rogers of Williamston, N.C. “It’s important for us to see a different side of health care and reach out to people who aren’t necessarily going to be taking the best care of themselves. I chose Gardner-Webb’s nursing school because they are founded in faith, and I heard so many good things about the professors and how they pray with you before class and how you are more than a number.”

The GWU students took vital signs and also presented educational posters and brochures on several topics, such as taking care of your heart, eating healthy and living with diabetes. Participants were screened for diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, high cholesterol and risks for heart disease. The nursing faculty and licensed healthcare volunteers provided each participant counseling on their personal results and discussed referrals to community agencies. “We want to give back to the community and show that we care about people,” affirmed Linda Wines, GWU Assistant Professor of Nursing. “It’s a way for us to serve and to spread the love of Christ.”

A few days before the Health Screening Bus arrived, nursing students spent a day in the community handing out information to residents about the free opportunity. Residents from local homeless shelters were also invited to access the free screening. “We walked the streets and gave the fliers to people who were outside,” Interim Asssociate Provost Sharon Starr explained. “The students engaged with people and have been real eager to help. It’s a good experience for them. They know what the mission is and they have done some work to present healthy living topics. They have interacted with people, and they understand what it means to be out in the community.”

Partnership for Community Prosperity

students engaged during the partnership for community prosperity event at GWU in 2017

Fourth graders from Graham Elementary School in Shelby, N.C., enjoyed a day on the Gardner-Webb University campus as part of a field day organized by the Cleveland County Partnership for Community Prosperity. The Partnership involves a range of organizations in the community, including GWU, Cleveland Community College, Cleveland County Health Department, Cleveland County Department of Social Services, Carolinas Healthcare System, the Cleveland County Commissioners, Cleveland County Schools, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, representatives from the local churches, and an advisory board of local community members.

According to one of the event organizers, Dr. Jill Parker, GWU Assistant Professor of Nursing, the field trip offered a small way for the University to give back to the students and families of Graham Elementary.

“Several departments on campus helped us organize the event, including Hunt School of Nursing, Exercise Science, Biology, Honors, Psychology & Counseling, and Sigma Theta Tau Phi Upsilon chapter,” Parker shared. “In the afternoon, the students had lunch at the Tucker Student Center. After lunch, they went to the football stadium, where they rotated through more learning stations hosted by athletics, band, student activities, cheerleaders, and other volunteers.”

Dr. Tom LeGrand, director of the Impact Center for Christian Ethics and Social Responsibility, helped coordinate the event. He and other organizers wanted to inspire the fourth-grade kids to work hard in school and help connect those efforts to more opportunities for their future. “We hope that one day,” he encouraged, “you’ll be back here as college students.”