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August 12, 2010 - Grand Rapids, Michigan (August 12, 2010) – As a Catholic College in the Dominican tradition, Aquinas College values prayer, study, community, and service. For 17 years, new students at AQ serve the Grand Rapids area through hours of community service as a part of their orientation program. Project Unite 2010 is scheduled for August 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. in various locations in the Eastown and Fulton Heights neighborhoods. A kick-off to the project is scheduled at 1:45 p.m. at the Aquinas College Athletic Field with a special message from AQ alumna Sarah Mieras '97 of Opera Grand Rapids.

"Project Unite is a way to illustrate to our students that living our values is an expectation at Aquinas College, " said Heather Bloom Hall, Director of Student Activities & Orientation, "It's a way for students to learn about the surrounding community and to see the many ways to serve others both at Project Unite and throughout their years on campus."

With over 13 local sites, including Kids Food Basket, ArtPrize, the Eastown Community Association, Clark Retirement Home, and many more, the first year students along with faculty, staff and administration provide two hours of service and offer support to an array of activities. Students may assist with various outdoor projects like weeding, planting flowers or assisting with a community clean-up in Wilcox Park to spending time playing Bingo with elderly or offering hands to teachers in various local schools who are preparing their classrooms for the upcoming year. On-campus projects are even planned in order for students to interact with the staff that will help them along their journey to graduation.

Orientation programs are committed to offering common experiences to students who join a campus from diverse backgrounds all over the world. Aquinas College accomplishes this through initiatives such as the Common Reading Experience and programs like Project Unite. Through the charism of Service, Aquinas students are challenged to shape their personal growth and broaden their notion of social responsibility.

"Project Unite includes reflection to enable students to learn from the community and from each other. It encourages students to get to know who they are, what abilities they have, and how they can work together with others for the common good," said Eric Bridge, Coordinator of Service-Learning.

Sara Emerick '10 said, "One of the best events during my freshman orientation was, by far, participating in Project Unite. It was the perfect time to see all the principles Aquinas was built upon such as service and community. Seeing everyone working together to achieve an overall goal was inspiring. It was a great start to my wonderful career at Aquinas!"

"A sense of belonging is a basic need in any community and we hope to give our newest members a sense of belonging not only to Aquinas but also to Grand Rapids, Michigan," said Veronica Beitner, Manager of Health & Wellness Initiatives and member of the Project Unite planning committee.