NewsAppalachian State

App State’s Days of Service contribute hundreds of volunteer hours to Watauga County nonprofits

BOONE, N.C. — App State’s Office of Community-Engaged Leadership (CEL) held its second annual Mobilize the Mountains Day of Service on Feb. 24, with dozens of student and faculty volunteers contributing over 111 hours of community service to two local nonprofit organizations:

  • Volunteers assisted the Volunteers-in-Parks program with work at Sims Pond on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The work included trail maintenance along the overlook trail.
  • At Grace Builders Woodlots, volunteers collected, cut and split wood and distributed firewood to community members — identified and vetted by the Hunger and Health Coalition — to heat their homes during the winter months.
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App State students help clean trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway during a 2023 Mobilize the Mountains Day of Service organized by App State’s Office of Community-Engaged Leadership. During this year’s event, held Feb. 24, App State volunteers continued to open trails along the Sims Pond Overlook. Photo by Chase Reynolds
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App State students clean drainage areas during a 2023 Mobilize the Mountains Day of Service to keep trails dry for hikers near the Blue Ridge Parkway. At this year’s event, on Feb. 24, App State students volunteered along the Sims Pond Overlook Trail, providing tree and shrub maintenance to allow for more sunshine to reach the trail. Photo by Chase Reynolds

During the 2022–23 academic year, six Days of Service provided 699 volunteer hours to 16 local organizations whose missions directly impacted Watauga County.

Kristen Lysne, leadership and outreach graduate assistant for Community-Engaged Leadership, said App State’s Days of Service allow students to step off campus and participate in the larger Boone community, increasing students’ sense of belonging on campus and in the High Country.

“We are so fortunate to have amazing community partners that routinely welcome our students, and our students often return from their sites energized and excited about the service they were able to participate in, as well as the new connections they formed with the other participants in their groups,” Lysne said.

The Days of Service are an outgrowth of the university’s former MLK Challenge, which began in 1999 and was held for many years on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, becoming a model for campuses nationwide. In 2011, North Carolina Campus Compact, a member of a national coalition of 1,000-plus community-committed colleges and universities, established a program to replicate App State’s MLK Challenge throughout the country.

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App State student volunteers helped the Hunger and Health Coalition by volunteering to split wood at Grace Builders Woodlot in Boone during the 2024 Mobilize the Mountains Day of Service event, held Feb. 24. Six Day of Service events will be held throughout the 2023–24 academic year, allowing students and faculty to volunteer with multiple community partners on various projects. Photo by Kyla Willoughby
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An App State volunteer loads wood into a wood splitter during App State’s 2024 Mobilize the Mountains Day of Service, held Feb. 24. The annual event, sponsored by App State’s Office of Community-Engaged Leadership, allows students and faculty to give back to the local community through various projects. Photo by Kyla Willoughby

“Our Days of Service events, along with other opportunities through Community-Engaged Leadership, play a pivotal role in enhancing the student experience,” said CEL Director Heather Jo Mashburn. “These engagement opportunities provide students with a sense of purpose and fulfillment, preparing students not just for career success but for a lifetime of community involvement and leadership.”

According to a recent economic impact study, App State student and employee volunteers generated an annual impact of $3.4 million in added income to the local five-county region of Watauga, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell and Wilkes counties — and $5.2 million statewide — in fiscal year 2021–22.

CEL will offer two additional Day of Service opportunities this semester: The next one, the Spring into Action Day of Service, will be held Saturday, March 23, and the final opportunity — the Farm Day of Service — will be held Saturday, April 13.

For more information about upcoming Day of Service events, visit

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