John Tarleton’s dream to create an institution of higher education for students of modest means today is reality. Tarleton State University offers an affordable, quality education and boasts graduates whose accomplishments would make its founder proud. 

This monthly column, by an anonymous university author, looks at the school’s progress, issues of our time, achievements and challenges through the eyes of John Tarleton — a dreamer’s point of view. 

I’ve known some great leaders in my life. Men and women who sought opportunities to serve and to give of themselves — time, talent and money — making life better for others.

True leaders are servants. 

When Tarleton Texans volunteer for a day of giving to the community like they did last month for Service Day or Round Up, they learn to be servant-leaders and lives are changed.

Their lives and the lives of those they help. 

Service Day and Round Up highlight an annual week of activities that supports Tarleton’s core value of service.

On Service Day — an effort sponsored by Tarleton’s Center for Transformative Learning — Texans turn what they learn in the classroom into opportunities to help. Everything from preparing free tax returns for qualified individuals to helping teachers at area schools. This year almost 3,000 students, faculty and staff, representing 21 academic departments, served 58 agencies and their clients. 

In its third year, Service Day offered 149 projects with 5,264 volunteer opportunities in 11 cities and communities. Tarleton Texans donated more than 10,500 hours of their time.

Nursing students created Disney character wigs for pediatric patients in children’s hospitals, science majors conducted magic shows at elementary schools, environmental science and chemistry students tested residential water wells, English majors preserved living history through oral interviews with senior citizens, and agriculture students organized Tarleton’s FFA Invitational.

For Tarleton’s 20th annual Round Up, more than 1,300 students, faculty and staff volunteered 5,200 hours and completed 160 community service projects. Some cleaned and planted flower beds. Others helped remove brush from winter’s ice storm. Still others rolled up their sleeves to assist with house cleaning and heavy lifting. All of them created lasting relationships with Stephenville residents in need.

The Round Up spirit even expanded beyond Stephenville to Tarleton’s locations in Fort Worth, Waco and Midlothian. 

A student-led, student-initiated project, Round Up complements the Keep Stephenville Beautiful campaign. 

Run the calculator.

When both days were said and done, a lot more was done than said. At an average of $24.14 per hour — as calculated by Independent Sector, the national coalition of nonprofits — Tarleton Texans working Service Day and Round Up contributed almost $380,000 of assistance to make life better for others. 

Along the way, they experienced the feel-good that only comes from lending a helping hand.

Together with the entire university family — alumni, parents and friends — students, faculty and staff have another opportunity to experience that feeling on April 17, when Tarleton hosts its third Giving Day. 

Gifts are tax deductible and can be designated for any Tarleton college, scholarship, program or organization.

Make donations online at https://givingday.tarleton.edu between 12:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. on Giving Day. Last year’s event brought in more than $225,000, surpassing the 2016 total by $84,000.

Whether with time, talent or treasure, making life better for others leaves you feeling rewarded. Gratified. Fulfilled. 

Giving and volunteering are as good for you as they are for those you’re helping.

Servant-leaders feel more empowered, and improving lives creates purpose. 

It’s the best kind of give and take.