Tower Guard is a sophomore student organization at Michigan State University (MSU) dedicated to serving the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD). Each year, approximately 80 sophomores, selected from the top 5% of the freshman class, carry on the tradition of academic excellence, leadership, outstanding character, and commitment to service. The 2019-2020 Tower Guard class continued to impress the Spartan community with their services. As many of the Tower Guard members balanced rigorous course loads, extracurriculars, part-time jobs, research, and so much more, they were always willing to set aside time to assist MSU students with disabilities.
In hopes of exceeding the impressive gift to the RCPD of $21,346 from last year’s Tower Guard, this year’s group worked overtime on fundraisers at local restaurants, donations during Beaumont Tower Tours, and collections from a successful raffle for a Valentine’s Day dinner for two in Beaumont Tower. The group was well on their way to reaching their goal with their largest fundraiser, the 20th Annual Shamrock 5K Walk-Run-Roll, set to take place on Saturday, March 14th, when on Wednesday, March 11th, MSU made the conscious decision to transition courses online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all upcoming in-person events were either postponed or cancelled.
The canceling of the Shamrock 5K was understandably disheartening. Run Chairs Ben Kessler and James Kinville, however, did an excellent job adapting and informing the community of the event’s last-minute changes. The Shamrock 5K is currently planned to be rescheduled for the beginning of the fall 2020 semester. In addition to the Shamrock 5K, the historic May's Morning Sing induction ceremony for new Tower Guard members, originally set for April 17th, is also planned to be rescheduled for fall semester. Unfortunately, new inductees will be missing the opportunity to engage with the typical surprises involved with the usual ceremony. The current executive board hasn’t given up on giving the new inductees a special welcome into the group when campus resumes in-person classes, however, as plans are underway for a revised celebration.
“While it has been a setback, our members have done a great job of making this transition to virtual life,” says Mackenzie Desloover, 2019-2020 Tower Guard President. “We have all learned to accept and adjust our expectations for the coming months.”
As campus began to shift from face-to-face instruction to online learning, members of Tower Guard’s Executive Board were determined to keep Tower Guard functioning as normally as possible. Maddy Niblock, current Tower Guard Secretary and member administer of Spartan Study, an in-person tutoring platform provided by Tower Guard, reached out to Tower Guard advisor, Angela Sebald, with the idea of finding a way to transition regularly scheduled Spartan Study to an online platform.
“Quickly, I set up zoom meetings for all seven Spartan Study sessions. After, I communicated with all of Tower Guard and gathered more members to serve as Tower Guard Spartan Study tutors than were doing so during in-person course work,” said Niblock. “With all this information, I published the links on the private Facebook group which contains Tower Guard members and students registered with the RCPD.”
On Monday, March 16th, less than a week after MSU transitioned online, Spartan Study was up to online capacity. Here, RCPD registered individuals continued to find academic help from Tower Guard members in a number of courses, including BS 161, CEM 141, CSE 102, MTH 103, MTH 124, and WRA 101. Tower Guard also proceeded with the “How to Study” seminar aspect of Spartan Study, but catered it to the differences of online course work. As the semester progressed, Spartan Study functioned weekly to assist any struggling RCPD students during the unprecedented time. Tower Guard members have always been eager to get involved and help those in need, and Spartan Study gives them the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of their peers.
Additionally, Tower Guard members worked with the DigitalX Team on campus to assist professors with making course content more accessible. Since some instructors have struggled to caption their video lectures, the volunteering efforts of this project helped to create closed captioning for course content, providing an easier online presence since the transition to virtual classes.
Even with hectic schedules, Tower Guard members contributed their time in whatever capacity they could. Collectively, they have accumulated a documented total of over 6,500 hours of service during the current academic year, through Spartan Ties, adaptive sports, e-texting in the RCPD, scribing exams, tutoring, Spartan Study, and countless other ways. We are eager to see what new challenges these talented Spartans will take on and what remarkable feats they will accomplish throughout the rest of their time at MSU!
Visit the Tower Guard website at https://www.msutowerguard.org to learn more!