Macie Snelson has received a 2020 Virginia Tech Aspire! Award for Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Snelson describes the university’s motto as a way of life — something you do day in and day out to help and serve others because it helps them and betters your community.

In addition, Snelson has learned through her service both abroad and in Virginia that the act of serving others, in turn, makes you a better person.

“There’s always a little bit of relief that comes when you serve others,” said Snelson. “The community aspect of serving others refills you so you can handle all the other stress and responsibility of life — it can help improve your mood, your self-esteem, and it will help you to see the good in the world. No matter what you have going on, how many things you have to do, or even if you feel like you’re not doing too well in life yourself, you should always make time to serve others.”

Snelson makes time for service in Blacksburg through the Virginia Tech campus ministry Christ’s Church, where she participates in The Big Event, the Interfaith Food Pantry in Christiansburg, the campus science fair for local school children, and other events for local churches and animal shelters.

But it is her yearly mission trips to Costa Rica that have taught her the most.

“Every year I return spiritually, mentally, and physically exhausted,” Snelson said. “Yet, there’s a part of me that loves it. It’s a reminder that regardless of what’s going on in my little bubble, there’s good in the world.”

Although the 10 days Snelson spends every January on this trip are physically and mentally taxing, they give her a perspective that has helped her overcome some of the seasonal affective disorder she faces during the winter months. 

The goal of the trip is to provide children from low-income, high-crime areas a safe and loving environment, with activities, good nutrition, and interactive reflection for five straight days. Families from Snelson’s hometown support these children through the organization Hope for Families, which operates Camp Hope and funds each child’s stay at no cost to them — what they call the “adopt a camper” model. 

“These kids come to this camp so full of joy and love, and they just want to play and be kids,” said Snelson. “As I get older and the weight of adulthood lies on my shoulders, it’s just such a good reminder that there’s something so important about the joyfulness and excitement that kids get. It’s just so fulfilling to have all those memories.”

Those memories have kept Snelson returning to this camp year after year.

And as a junior majoring in agribusiness and Spanish, Snelson plans to continue participating in the camp after graduation, whether in-person or through the adopt-a-camper approach.

“This kind of global service is so important in our world today,” wrote Snelson’s Aspire! Award nominator. “Not only is Macie serving on this large scale, but she is also giving much of her time here in Blacksburg.” 

In addition to her extensive service, Snelson is the 2019 recipient of the Harold N. Young scholarship, a member of the Gamma Beta Phi honor society, and a member of the Recreational Sports Special Events team.

Written by Jillian Broadwell