Community Builder: USC professor encourages students to give back

Updated: May. 25, 2016 at 5:48 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Each year one University of South Carolina professor goes beyond the textbook to give his new students a crash course in giving back to the community. It's why those who know him say he's the definition of a Community Builder.

The group gathering in front of Ms. Geneva Boyd's house has been there before.

"I love Ms. Geneva, she's amazing," says USC Sophomore Hannah Antonucci.

Antonucci helped repair Ms. Geneva's house last fall. It was part of her University 101 Class with Professor Tom Syfert.

"Having him as my professor was really awesome, he made us a community, made us all work together- especially working at this house," said Antonucci.

Syfert has had his orientation classes partner with the non-profit Home Works of America for the last eight years. While Community Service is part of each University 101 class, each professor decides what that looks like.

"Anytime you can get students out of the classroom, the learning just expands and to get out of their comfort zone sometimes and to Ms. Boyd's house. It's just a step above what most professors do at the university," said professor Bob Holdeman.

Syfert has helped work on more than 20 projects for Home Works since he started partnering with the organization that repairs homes for people in need. Ms. Geneva's is among the latest.

"They came and looked at it, and they couldn't believe it," Boyd said.

Syfert and his students built her a new shed, a new porch, and most importantly repaired her roof, which was crumbling. Ms. Geneva says the day it was no longer raining in her house, she was shocked.

"I just sit there and prayed and thank God and heard the rain falling and no rain came in," Boyd said.

For leading the charge in helping Ms. Geneva and so many others, Syfert's friends nominated him as a Community Builder.

"This isn't about me, it's about Home Works, it's about the students helping out," Syfert said. "God's blessed me with ability to serve and help others, but I see so many people who have given to the community and then it comes back to them. And Ms. Geneva and Ms. Ruby who we worked with last spring, they give to the community and it comes back to them."

As a Community Builder, Syfert will receive a $1,000 donation to the Michael J Mungo Foundation. He says it will go to Home Works.

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