Student Government sponsors the 12th annual day of service
Originally Published April 19th, 2023
Notre Dame Student Government held their 12th annual Back the Bend, an event designed to integrate Notre Dame students into the South Bend community through a day of service across the city. This year, Back the Bend took place on April 1, when hundreds of students volunteered to work on ten unique service projects in South Bend.
Registration enticed students to sign up by offering breakfast, lunch, and a free t-shirt that promoted the 2023 Back the Bend event.
Carlondrea Petty, former Director of Community Outreach in Student Government, told the Rover that the principle of solidarity anchors the event. She explained to the Rover, “We believe, as the University of Notre Dame, that it is our mission to serve. Student Government believes it is everyone’s place to contribute to and meet members of our community. Our being South Bend residents and Notre Dame Students. This speaks life to [Back the Bend’s] slogan, ‘Together, it’s our community.’ Our goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship that flourishes into a community … and I believe Back the Bend has done a great job with initiating that relationship.”
This year, Student Government partnered with organizations including the Center for Civic Innovation, Green Bridge Growers, Hope Ministries, La Casa de Amistad, ND Lead Innovation Team, Notre Dame Student Government, Rebuild Together, Robinson Community Learning Center, South Bend Bike Garage, City of South Bend, Transformation Ministries, Unity Gardens, and City of South Bend Venues Parks & Arts.
When asked how the organizations were chosen, Petty explained that she “wanted to connect with organizations that Notre Dame students might not know about, such as Transformation Ministries, a faith-based community center, or Green Bridge Growers, a sustainable farm that employs people on the autism spectrum.”
Petty further detailed the primacy of supporting local businesses through all stages of the event, saying, “The goal is always to serve with intentionality and with community at the foundation of that. We were definitely successful with staying community-filled. Keeping with that community focus, we contracted with local vendors for catering and other services, food (Junbuggies), T-shirts (Mike’s AP Image) and transportation (Cardinal Buses). We wanted ‘community’ floating throughout our planning and eventually outwardly as put on one of the largest student events.”
The newly elected Student Government administration, headed by Daniel Jung and Aidan Rezner, shared their enthusiasm for Back the Bend with the Rover: “We will absolutely be continuing Back the Bend this year as we recognize it is not only a Student Government initiative, but a storied campus-wide tradition. However, the exact details, including dates, times, and community partners, have not been finalized at this current time.”
Jung described the personal experience of the Jung-Rezner administration by articulating their own involvement with Back the Bend. He told the Rover, “Service is something that is deeply important to the personal values of Aidan, Collette and me. The three of us participated in Back the Bend this year, and specifically Aidan and I had the incredible opportunity to take senior citizens from South Bend on a tour of the city. The tour began at the Robinson Community Learning Center on Eddy Street, where we then ventured to and toured a new community center in Southeastern South Bend, and finally culminated in a trip to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Additionally, for last year’s Back the Bend, Collette and I were involved in a project that entailed picking up litter and other debris at a local park.”
Both Petty and Jung explained the hopefulness for increased student engagement with future iterations of Back the Bend. Petty expressed to the Rover: “Back the Bend 2023 was definitely a success. The student volunteers were undoubtedly troopers. As weather and illnesses played a major role this year, students still came out to serve, and to me that is extremely beautiful. [In] future years, I hope to see Back the Bend flourish and expand. It would be amazing to have 1,000 student volunteers, as [we] were unable to reach that goal.”
Notre Dame’s mission statement frames service as a core tenet of human flourishing. It states, “In addition [to cultivating the mind, body, and spirit], the University seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”
Jung’s explanation of the value of events such as Back the Bend places a similar weight upon the role of service in a Catholic university. He described the role of faith in service by writing: “Our administration believes that service is a core tenet of a Christian education. Holy Cross Founder Basil Moreau, in Christian Education, writes, ‘education is helping a young person to be more like Christ, the model for all Christians.’ Through service, we can build up our community and grow closer to God in the process. We are grateful for the opportunity to further this mission within our administration.”
Mary Rice is a senior majoring in PLS and theology. In trying to avoid thinking about her impending graduation, she’s spending more time reading for fun. Send recommendations to while away her time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Unity Gardens Instagram (@unitygardens)
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