‘RISE’ project lifts spirits in the Queens community

Rosemary Takacs, a senior music therapy major, sings as part of the RISE Project created on social media accounts by Queens Religious and Spiritual Life.

While sequestered in their homes, members of the Queens community are reaching out to one another through a creative series of videos.   

Posted to social media, the videos depict a variety of human experiences intended to uplift and inspire others during what otherwise could be a depressing time. The effort is called simply the “RISE Project.” R.I.S.E. stands for Reflection, Inspiration, Story, and Expression. 

University Chaplain Joey Haynes and Suzanne Henderson, dean of Belk Chapel, worked together to make the project possible. People have responded with a variety of videos ranging from literary readings to yoga advice.  

Recently, for example, Monica Gillette, the assistant dean of student engagement, created an Instagram video asking people to do more than simply “look for the silver lining.”  

“There was no need for me to look for the light in the situation,” Gillette said in the video. “I can just be it. Find the light within yourselves and share it with others.” Her words of wisdom received more than 60 views in a matter of hours. 

The RISE Project presents an opportunity for individuals to explain what makes them tick –spiritual resources, daily practices, and deeply held values. The feedback about the project has been overwhelmingly positive.  

The project posts the videos to both Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #RISEProject. Haynes and Henderson invited a wide range of campus partners and friends of the chapel to jumpstart the idea: students, faculty, staff, alums, and even the Chapel Advisory Board. 

Henderson said the project took shape quickly and easily — about two days from first thought to its rollout. One challenge was figuring out how video could be sent through them and posted.  

“That’s one reason why we asked for videos to be shorter,” Haynes said. “It’s easier to send.” 

If you are interested in submitting a video, email haynesj@queens.edu for guidelines. Haynes asks that videos be no longer than two minutes. 

The Queens community has recognized the need to try to be a positive voice for others, they said.  “And the response has been inspiring,” Henderson said.  

This project is also helping Henderson and Haynes. The chapel’s staff places special emphasis on interacting face-to-face with members of the Queens community. Since that is no longer possible, the staff decided to do it virtually.  

Staying grounded and being able to center oneself during these times is important to the faculty members at Belk Chapel.  

“Where are people continuing to find meaning and purpose?” Haynes asked. “When they feel like everything is going to come crashing down to a halt?”  

With people being physically disconnected, social media became a great place to hear different voices offer positivity.

“Providing light into the darkness is the type of outcome we want for this project,” said Haynes.

Henderson agreed. “Having these daily glimpses into the community members’ lives will help us find life and joy in the midst of the challenges we’re facing,” she said.   

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.