Service Leadership Seminar inspires new students to be community leaders

Forty-nine incoming freshmen discovered how they can create positive, sustainable change around Florida State University — and the world — by participating in the annual Service Leadership Seminar, the week before the fall semester.

Service Leadership Seminar (SLS) is a weeklong event coordinated through the Center for Leadership and Social Change at FSU. It’s an opportunity for freshmen to learn about community service, identity and leadership through participation in projects, workshops, team-building activities and interactions with current campus leaders.

Freshman Bianca Daurio described SLS as a transformative experience.

“I came here expecting a couple of fun activities, but it’s been really immersive and deep,” Daurio said. “It’s all about growth and figuring out who we are going to be in college and then figuring out how we can use that to support other people. I’ve thought about college as an experience for myself, but it’s definitely more of a communal experience, not only at FSU but in the entire Tallahassee community.”

The first day of SLS traditionally takes place at the FSU Reservation, but severe thunderstorm warnings forced the cohort to remain indoors. SLS facilitator Ashley Johns said that didn’t prevent the group from completing team-building exercises. Instead, the Rez came to the students.

“Students made shapes with a rope while their eyes were closed, focusing on communication as well as fostering family and fellowship,” Johns said.

For incoming freshman Cierra McKenzie, the teamwork it took to create a specific shape out of rope while everyone’s eyes were closed was an unusual but fun learning experience.

“Day one was definitely a new experience because we were getting acclimated with our environment and doing a lot of team-building activities,” McKenzie said. “It taught us how to work together because sometimes we would have our eyes closed, so it was hard to communicate. We had to figure out ways around that to get the objective done.”

The second and third days of the weeklong event consisted of various small groups and workshops, all aimed toward students gaining a better understanding of their identity, other people’s identities, leadership and how they all intertwine. Freshman Corrinne Hickman said the activities helped her gain an understanding of where other people might be coming from.

“I am thankful for my SLS experience, and the main reason is because it really was the door opening for growth and expansion in not only myself, but understanding how I can expand my ideas and things that I learned here to other people and help them to expand,” Hickman said. “It’s an ever-growing community, and it’s exciting to see where I can go and what I can do thanks to the SLS program.”

On the fourth day of SLS, students volunteered at various service sites, such as Frenchtown Urban Farms, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Pace Center for Girls, FSU’s Center for English Intensive Studies and Elder Day Stay. At Habitat for Humanity ReStore, participants refurbished used cabinets that will one day be displayed in someone’s home.

While SLS is beneficial to the incoming freshmen who participate, Johns said that the program also has a profound impact on the facilitators.

“Watching students go from being timid and shy to genuinely having these really deep conversations about identity and things they could change is one of the most beautiful things that you can see as a facilitator,” Johns said. “SLS is life-changing for students and for facilitators.”

Students completed their SLS journey on Friday with a workshop presented by Brandon Bowden, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, and a large group wrap-up. Participants were challenged to put their leadership skills into practice this semester, and Daurio feels confident she will do so.

“Being able to look back on these memories and learning ways to reflect has been really valuable, so it’s something I’ll take into the fall semester with me,” Daurio said. “I’m really excited to get involved and engaged on campus and in the Tallahassee community.”

To learn more about the Center for Leadership and Social Change and Service Leadership Seminar, visit