Steppin’ Out enhances student involvement in community service, attaining community awareness, interaction, and collaboration between Baylor and Waco. It also provides opportunities for experiential learning, civic leadership, and social responsibility. In 1992, 1,913 volunteers were involved in Steppin’ Out and this year, the number grew to an all-time high of 3,500 individuals.
Three years ago, the organization committed to involve the community more directly and has involved more than 400 individuals from local high schools, churches, and civic organizations. In 1999, 26,000 hours were volunteered at more than 100 job sites; 34 of these sties included beautification efforts such as cleaning vacant lots or planting flowers, 33 houses were assisted with painting and maintenance, 29 sites involved serving the elderly, 10 jobs helped the needy, and five sites worked with children.
More than 150 nonprofit organizations rely on the services provided by Steppin’ Out. Agencies including the City of Waco Action Center, Neighborhood Housing Services, and the Area Agency on Aging refer individuals to this program. The City of Waco reported two-thirds of houses were built before 1950 coupled with merely 40% home ownership contributes to the startling rate of 50-60% sub-standard housing. Each semester, Steppin’ Out meets the needs of the elderly, disable, or economically disadvantaged residents with yard and home maintenance.
Steppin’ Out is one of the largest and oldest programs on university campuses. This student run organization began in 1985 as a week of events leading to the day of service. Shortly after in 1989, the project became a one day event including both the fall and spring semesters. A peer institution study in October 1999 revealed that this program is unique in its longevity, percentage of undergraduate participation (30%) and recruitment of external volunteers from high schools, churches, and civic organizations. Not only was Steppin’ Out one of the first all-university days of service in the nation, but it is also one of the most successful.
In 1993 Steppin’ Out became an independent organization in the Department of Student Activities and several additional organization were birthed from this charter: Best Buddies, working with mentally handicapped; MPACT, and educational team that gives presentations at local middle schools, and Baylor Buddies, a mentoring program for at-risk youth. Every year, literally thousands of individuals are exposed to community service through this program. Often Steppin’ Out reaches students that have never volunteered or have never been exposed to the agency or social issues where they are serving.
For 15 years, Steppin’ Out has not only organized all-university days of service, but has also exposed students to a variety of volunteer opportunities encouraging them to adopt altruism as a lifestyle. Agencies depend on Steppin’ Out to meet any unrealized needs. Year round committee members contact area agencies, schools, clubs, media, and businesses for service projects, volunteers, and involvement.