April 30, 2021 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Every year, Liberty University students go beyond the walls of their classrooms and dorms to serve others in their community. Some students exceed all expectations and become excellent examples of how to serve in Christ’s love.
On Friday afternoon, Liberty recognized four of these students (one from each class) with an annual Christian Community Service (CSER) Award. Recipients are: freshman Gabriela Hayes, sophomore Lauren Gutierrez, junior Audrey Lambert, and senior Rachel Smith. Each received a scholarship from Liberty’s Alumni Office Green Cord campaign. The scholarships begin at $500 for the freshman award and increase by $500 for every class.
The awards are voted on and distributed through Liberty’s LU Serve and Alumni Relations Offices, a partnership that seeks to thank and recognize Champions for Christ who go above and beyond while completing their CSER hours.
CSER is a graduation requirement for all residential undergraduate students (20 hours each semester), but students often surpass the hours. Their volunteer time enhances their educational experience, fosters personal transformation, promotes community engagement, and helps them learn valuable skills and life lessons that they will take with them into their careers.
“We are so proud of these recipients and all of our students who are being salt and light in their communities,” Liberty’s Executive Director for LU Serve Lew Weider said. “We will only know in heaven the eternal impact that has been made in the lives of people because of the personal sacrifices of our students.”
Hayes earned CSER Freshman of the Year honors for her work with Mudroom, a ministry designed to show the love of Christ to teenagers in the Greater Atlanta area. While in Atlanta over the holiday season, she substantially contributed to the ministry’s gift-giving project for those in need.
She was nominated by her supervisor at Mudroom, who wrote: “Gabriela worked tirelessly to help purchase the gifts, organize the gifts, wrap the gifts, label the gifts, and deliver the gifts. It was a massive undertaking and she was massively critical to the project’s success. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the project would not have been completed without Gabby’s labor of love and Christ-like heart. Although she received her allotted hours, Gabby worked many more hours, with the reflection of her Savior in all she did.”
Through Liberty’s School of Music, CSER Sophomore of the Year award winner Gutierrez modeled excellence in the little things, spending countless hours assisting students and professors with emails, reminders, and often overlooked details.
“She made herself available for all freshmen students who were feeling overwhelmed due to their lack of confidence and she met with them to share her own story and how she overcame her personal struggles in terms of performance comparison,” wrote her CSER supervisor. “I have seen her pray with students when no one was watching. Students have contacted me about her above and beyond service to them and how she has inspired them to raise their own bar in terms of serving others. Her service that lies outside the normal expectations is inspiring to me as a professor.”
CSER Junior of the Year Award winner Lambert has served as the student president of Autism Speaks University (ASU) at Liberty for the past three semesters. In this role, she has led a leadership board and up to 50 students in meeting the mission of ASU, which is to bring community and advocacy about autism spectrum disorders to campus through social events, advocacy seminars, and other fun activities on and off campus. ASU connects students who are on the spectrum with other students on campus, providing opportunities for fellowship, student leadership, and self-advocacy through monthly meetings and shared activities.
“Audrey has done an outstanding job growing the organization while overseeing the planning, service, outreach, communications, and budget of the organization, ensuring that the vision and mission remained central and are clearly communicated and modeled in every event,” Lambert’s supervisor said.
As a volunteer with Oasis for Orphans from 2019-20, CSER Senior of the Year award winner Smith was able to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in many ways, once having the privilege of ministering to a girl who had escaped an arranged marriage to an older man at the age of 13. Smith helped this young teenager, who had never been to school, learn letters and numbers while showing her the love of Christ each day.
“They spent hours together walking around outside learning the names of things. (The girl) was so motivated because she felt so loved by Rachel,” Smith’s CSER supervisor said.
Within a month, the teen was reading simple words and working through simple math problems. By the end of Smith’s service time in 2019, she could read simple books and had completed a kindergarten level of school. The following year, during COVID-19, Smith returned, volunteering to tutor her for five months; by the end, they had completed all of the work through the fourth grade.
“More importantly than all of this is that (the girl) has heard about Jesus for the first time,” Smith’s supervisor said. “She loves that Rachel follows Jesus and she has become completely receptive to Jesus being the leader and Savior in her own life.”
Through Oasis for Orphans, Smith has also personally provided the funds for a student in Kenya to attend college when he is old enough.