May 26, 2018
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Husson accepts White House challenge to create interfaith service project

By Andrew Neff and Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR — Husson University has accepted a challenge from the president to create an interfaith community service project.

And it didn’t come from Robert Clark, president of the Bangor institution.

This challenge came from the White House.

The Rev. Sarah L. Pringle-Lewis, Husson’s chaplain, and student Kamil Suja, 23, of Portland, who is president of the Muslim Student Association, were scheduled Wednesday morning to attend an event at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. The two also were to take part in an orientation for the program later in the day at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Suja is a native of Somalia. He is majoring in international business.

Husson’s proposal was one of more than 900 received from colleges and universities across the country. About 500 people representing 300 institutions were invited to attend the event on Obama’s 50th birthday.

“We don’t know if we are going to meet the president or not,” Pringle-Lewis said in a phone interview Tuesday.

The chaplain said the White House sent information about the challenge to every university and college president in the country. Husson President Clark passed the information on to the Student Life Office, of which the Chaplain’s Office is a part.

“It’s a good project and it’s service-oriented so it fits in with what we want to do,” she said Monday, “particularly through the office of the chaplain and it helps us to help students develop spiritually and maybe get some faith exposure.”

“We try to help students grow academically, so why not stretch their spiritual growth,” said Pringle-Lewis, who had to apply for the challenge in short time period.

The White House announced the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge this spring. Institutions had to commit to participating by May 14, about the time many graduation ceremonies were being held. The deadline for a final plan was June 24.

This initiative is led by the White House and supported by the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service, according to information on the White House website.

Participating schools will not receive any funding from the White House or other government agency, according to Pringle-Lewis.

In the proposal sent to the White House, Husson said it would approach the challenge on three fronts — education, understanding and service.

“Through a non-credit year-long seminar entitled, ‘Talking Openly About Faith,’ we will explore a variety of faith communities, their traditions, observances, texts and lived experiences,” it said. “To undergird and further this campus wide initiative, a series of public events that include open lectures, films and events focusing on the variety of faith traditions will be made a monthly part of the university’s activities.”

The final project will be designed to enlist students to provide a day of service to a selected community. The plan calls for each of Husson’s major areas of concentration, including business, legal studies and health-related fields, to develop a way of addressing a particular community problem.

Pringle-Lewis said one of the goals is to find ways for students to be of service while using the skills they are learning at Husson.

“Our goal is to ensure each of our major areas of concentration, which include business, legal studies and health-related fields, develop a way of addressing a particular community problem,” the chaplain said Monday.

Pringle-Lewis said that the skills of students at the New England School of Communications and Bangor Theological Seminary, which both are located on the Husson campus, will be welcome as the project moves forward this fall.

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