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Start of semester kick-off event previews growing outreach of office on campus

A chorus of female voices echoed throughout East Campus on Thursday evening as students gathered on the lawn of Seven Palms amphitheater for a collective night of worship.

The Office of Women’s Development (OWD) invited students to their bi-annual “Women’s Night of Worship” event as a means of uniting both incoming and returning members of the student community through their commonality of being Christians. 

The event’s theme of sisterhood was reiterated throughout Director of Commuter Life and guest speaker Rhianna Pierre- Puckett’s speech, as she retold the story from the book of Luke where Mary relied on her sister Elizabeth’s help to live through one of the hardest moments of her life where she was pregnant with Jesus. 

Puckett’s red lipstick, bright fuchsia dress and enthusiasm projected onto the crowd of around 50 -mostly female- students. They cheered on her call for everyone on the lawn of Seven Palms to love one another as sisters, and bowed their heads in unison as she prayed for the gathered students to show support for one another in times of hardship that will arise throughout the semester. 

The theme of sisterhood, however, was not constrained to women alone. 

Male students wandered in and out of the amphitheater throughout the event, giving women hugs of encouragement and affirmation. Members of APU’s Brothers Against Harassment movement also came to support their fellow campus organization.

Domenicque Epati-Hale, a junior international business major, said these small gestures of kindness and intimate gatherings allow people grow to become agents of change once they enter the real world outside of college. 

Throughout the night, student performers guided worship. Attendees were encouraged to indulge in snacks as well partake in activities such as painting. 

In a distant corner of the amphitheater, a small whiteboard with pink post-its was set up for students to share what sisterhood means to them. 

OWD Director Elaine Richardson explained sisterhood means to have a bond with women that transcends generations. 

“We are interconnected, and if we start to see ourselves that way, then sisterhood becomes who we are,” Richardson said. 

The OWD has been actively promoting this notion of interconnectivity through their core, annual events such as the “Clothesline Project,” “Stand Up For Your Sister” and “Women’s Night of Worship.” 

This school year, the OWD will expand their on-campus outreach initiatives to host western author Chris Enns during women’s history month in the spring semester, celebrating the anniversary of women’s right to vote. 

The office has also continued to maintain the food pantry that they launched in December 2018. According to Richardson, the pantry has grown vastly since it first opened and an abundance of donations has allowed the office to keep it fully-stocked. 

“We have men and women coming together on this campus to make sure they are well fed, have what they need to have in order to thrive, and make sure we are respecting and loving one another throughout our differences,” Richardson said.