Finding Your Community in the Community: Sammi Hofstra’s Service Capstone Project

–  by Sammi Hofstra ’18

Look around you, your group of friends, your neighbors next door, your weekend activities, now tell me, what is your community? How are you involved in that community? Do we sometimes just stick with our close friends without reaching to others right next to us? Living in College Station, with a population overtaken by over 60,000 students, sometimes we assume that IS the community.  In the midst of this service project, I have learned so much about finding the steady community within College Station.

Knowing that I had a capstone project to plan, I knew right away I wanted to do a service project.  So many ideas popped to my head of thing I wanted to do and plans I had for the community.  But I learned that’s not what service is about; service is listening to the community and wanting to help with their wants and needs.  Going in to this project I had grand plans to build a community garden, inspiring a local neighborhood to eat affordable produce.  But after meeting with my mentor, Ann Boehm, and Community Parks and Recreation Director, David Schmitz, I had to be flexible an realize the community wanted a Monarch Garden and that many gardens had already died.  The community needed a sustainable garden that allowed the monarchs to have a place to stop in their migration as they are going extinct.

Two women smile and hug in front of a newly mulched garden.
Sammi Hofstra ’18 (right) with her mentor Amy Boehm. “One of the greatest pleasures of this capstone project was building a close relationship with a resident of the city.”

With the help of the city, providing water, mulch, and garden beds, the community gathered to plant a monarch garden in September at bee creek.  It had to be built it time in order for the monarch’s migration through college station in October.  The start to this project was one of my favorite college memories.  Starting with the generosity of the community to donate so many milkweeds and other specifics plants for the garden, I was overwhelmed.  It was wonderful to see the garden club, local people from ages 4-70, and students from a student organization, SAIL, all gather to complete this garden.  So often our service projects involve just the students doing something for the community, it was beautiful to see the community work with the students to achieve something for the community together.

See coverage of the planting at The Eagle

While there was so much inspiration in starting this garden, the next problem was sustaining it.  The upkeep of a garden is a lot of work, and the excitement dwindles.  Coordinating between the garden club and SAIL we were able to upkeep the watering and the mulching.  With encouragement and excitement, service can be fun.  SAIL (sophomores advancing in leadership) is the student organization that I am a part of.  While I will be graduating soon and no longer part of this organization, the leadership has been turned over to them and they will continue to take the responsibility of up keeping this garden.  So far we have enjoyed the mulching, weeding, and watering and meeting so much of the community.

A group of students poses in front of the garden.
The students of SAIL with the help of Aggie BELLES helped upkeep the garden by mulching, weeding, watering, and planting new plants!

Students dig in a garden bordered by large timbers.Three students smile while working on mulching the garden.

This project taught me so much more about service than I ever knew.  Service used to mean to me, saying yes to whatever project, but I did not realize how much is out there once you look.  While service takes so many shapes and forms, it was so special to work alongside other community members and to make our own project.  After doing this project, I would encourage others to seek out their community and find maybe a project within to really get to know the community.  It has been a blessing to meet so many people and build so many connections here in college station.

For more information about the Undergraduate Service Scholars program, visit or contact



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