All the hugs: Rolla moms bring the love to campus during finals | St. Louis Public Radio

All the hugs: Rolla moms bring the love to campus during finals

Dec 11, 2018

Being away from home at college, especially during finals week, can be a stressful experience.

That’s why a group of moms from Rolla Vineyard Church stand in front of the Missouri University of Science and Technology library once a month shouting words of encouragement and giving high-fives and hugs.

Carrie Miller held a sign that said, “Free Mom Hugs” on a recent, cold, December day.

Carrie Miller gives a student a high-five.
Credit Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

“You’re awesome! We’re so proud of you! You’ve got this!” are just some of the things she shouts out to students walking by.

Some of the students passed by and gave a smile and nod. Some gave her a high-five. One student came in for a hug, lingered a bit, and then walked away quickly.

“She failed a test,” Miller said of the girl she just hugged. “And I said, ‘girl, don’t worry, there’s going to be another one, and I believe in you.’ She just bawled. Broke down in my arms.”

They are known as the Rolla Mom Huggers. Tracie Devault started the group. She teaches speech at S&T, and regularly sees students struggling with the pressures of college life. She thought she and the women from her church could make a difference.

Rolla Mom Hugger Tracie Devault and her support dog, Angus, help Missouri S&T students de-stress outside the library.
Credit Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

“I’ve seen it, first hand, how much these students can struggle in school. And I know that a kind word, a hug from a mom who understands can mean a lot,” Devault said.

Marie Allen, interim pastor the the Vineyard Church in Rolla where the Mom Huggers attend, said supporting the students is part of her congregation’s outreach efforts to spread love.

“These college kids are part of our community, and they are so important to us,” Allen said. “And we know there is so much pressure here at the university.”

Patti Fleck, director of counseling services at Missouri S&T, said she and her counselors see students regularly wrestling with stress and pressure. She said the huggers may help.

Vineyard Church interim pastor Marie Allen gives a high-five to a student on campus at Missouri S&T
Credit Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

“Random acts of kindness, or even more importantly, intentional acts of kindness and civility and support can really make a difference,” Fleck said.

The Rolla Mom Huggers plan to continue their support of the students. They will be back in January, and once a month, every month during the school year.

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