NAU students lead the charge in community volunteering efforts

A group of students and staff at NAU standing in front of a Pi Kappa Alpha marquee and wearing athletic clothes on a sunny day

Logan Scarbrough, an NAU finance major, has a personal connection to breast cancer. As a child, he supported his mother through her treatment and together, they participated in a Phoenix breast cancer awareness walk every October.

Perhaps that’s why, when he learned that Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Marissa Griffin was diagnosed with breast cancer, he felt compelled to act. 

“We wanted to give back to her and support her because she does so much for our community,” Scarbrough said. “My mom and I used to do a cancer walk in Phoenix, and so I thought, why not translate it to Flagstaff, where there’s never been an event like that before?”

People walking down a sidewalk on the NAU campus on a sunny day
The PIKE-organized cancer awareness walk was dedicated to Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Marissa Griffin, pictured at left in a pink T-shirt. Photo courtesy of Quannah Arnold.

In response, Scarbrough collaborated with his peers in Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) to organize a 5K walk in October, dedicated to Griffin. The event was part of the fraternity’s annual fall philanthropy competition. Alongside other events like a talent show and a capture the flag game, they managed to raise over $10,000 for breast cancer awareness. 

For Griffin, the event was about more than just fundraising. It encapsulated what she, Scarbrough and so many others value about Greek life: the fact that it creates supportive, philanthropic and community-minded people.

“When the gentleman of PIKE approached me about doing a fundraiser to raise awareness of breast cancer and, most importantly, support my journey, there weren’t words to describe my gratitude,” she said. “Participating in the event and seeing so much love and support from each student gave me hope—a hope to keep fighting, but also a hope seeing our students’ impact on this campus, the Flagstaff community and society.”

‘A win-win situation’ 

Scarbrough’s efforts are part of a larger culture of volunteering at NAU. Every year, students across campus participate in a variety of service activities, from nonprofit work to food distribution, making a positive impact on campus and in Flagstaff.

It’s thanks to student volunteers, in fact, that this week’s Arizona presidential primaries could see an uptick in local student turnout. Last fall, the political science honors society Pi Sigma Alpha held a voter registration drive on the pedway and registered more than 45 students.  

computer monitor that reads Voter Registration Drive: Pi Sigma Alpha
The political science honors society Pi Sigma Alpha registered more than 45 students to vote at its fall registration drive. Photo courtesy of Samuel Conley.

“PSA believes it is critical to have events like this, since promoting civic engagement is key to reducing a polarized society,” said Samuel Conley, a member of the society and a student in the Honors College. “PSA is devoted to many kinds of public service that foster greater political awareness and expression, including organizing election watch parties, tabling at community events and more.”

Across town at Flagstaff High School, a handful of students from the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity recently volunteered at a youth basketball game hosted by Special Olympics Arizona. Jamie McKinney, the fraternity’s community service chair, said he and three other students refereed the game and helped with event setup and post-game cleanup.

“When it comes to students who volunteer with us, it’s a win-win situation,” said Heather Turkes, Special Olympics Arizona’s volunteer engagement senior coordinator. “Students are coming to these events with experience in sports competition and training, and for them to share the joy of that with young people who don’t often get the opportunity to participate in sports is so valuable. But the student volunteers get so much out of it, too: They get to share the joy these kids feel when they finish their first game in a new sport or set a new personal record.”

Relentless welcome

Countless nonprofits, including Special Olympics Arizona, rely on NAU volunteers to fulfill their missions. Student organizations regularly visit the Flagstaff Family Food Center to prepare grocery bags and serve meals to residents, contributing hundreds of volunteer hours every year. During the 2022-23 academic year, the university’s Greek organizations devoted more than 19,000 hours to community service, volunteering and raising money for such organizations as the Flagstaff Fire Department, Huntsman Cancer Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Girl Scouts of America.

But students aren’t just jumping into off-campus community engagement—they’re also setting aside time to support their on-campus peers, strengthening NAU’s culture of relentless welcome.

According to the Office of Leadership and Engagement, more than 7,000 NAU students are part of a student organization—which means roughly a quarter of students have spent time organizing inclusive campus events and tabling to raise awareness for causes they care about. 

Four students dressed as referees posing at a Special Olympics Arizona table on a basketball court
In February, a handful of students from the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity volunteered at a youth basketball game hosted by Special Olympics Arizona. Photo courtesy of Jamie McKinney.

A few years ago, Maria Contreras, a senior majoring in biomedical science, found a lifeline in Hermanas United for Change, a Latina-led student organization focused on uplifting women of color through discussion and engagement. In an effort to help other students find their lifeline, she became a Get Involved Ambassador, tabling at key locations across the Flagstaff Mountain campus to share information about NAU’s many student organizations.

“Being involved on campus is important because it gives students a reason to continue being motivated to pursue their education,” Contreras said. “It is a great opportunity to make connections and be assured that you have a community to which you belong.”

Student organizations often team up with each other to maximize their impact—perhaps most famously on Student Organization Service Day. Each spring, as NAU employees come together to support the university through donations, students gather for a three-hour campus clean-up. For some, it’s an important way to give back to a place that’s given them so much.

“Being involved on campus has created friendships and many of my favorite memories,” said 2023 graduate Brendan Trachsel, the former ASNAU president. “It creates community, gives experience and makes you proud to be a Lumberjack.” 

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Jill Kimball | NAU Communications
(928) 523-2282 |

NAU Communications