NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The event known as After Dark has been traveling to different college campuses for 16 years bringing a message of hope and community to now over half a million students. This year they selected SFA as one of 11 schools they will visit this year, and for JD Rodgers, a recent SFA graduate and now coordinator of the event, it is a special opportunity.
"Being a SFA graduate and knowing the impact this event can have on the school is just incredible," Rodgers said. "I always tell people it's a night of experience and opportunity, it's a free event that students can't afford to miss."
Rodgers coordinated a similar event on the campus of SFA honoring his father who was in the final months of battling cancer. The event Rodgers hosted was such a success After Dark called and offered him a position to coordinate for their company, something he said was a dream come true.
"I went from SFA world, and then instantly into the real world and I remember they told me the first event I would be coordinating was A&M which brings in thousands and I was a little nervous," Rodgers said. "Knowing that on day two of promoting though, everyone knows about the event and wants to attend, is what makes it worth it. You will walk up to people and be like, 'Have you heard of After Dark?' and they say, 'Who hasn't?'"
He credits the over 150 volunteers from the SFA campus for making this work despite other responsibilities, and the small amount of time they have to promote.
"Just to see so many people that see the value in an event like this to come together and work so hard and work alongside their lives, works, classes for the sake of bettering their campus is huge," Rodgers said. "We are traveling to a different campus every week so our marketing has to be crazy for the short amount of time that we are here, and they have made that possible for us."
For Taylor Leonard, one of the volunteers helping this week, watching the way people of all backgrounds and interests have come together and make the marketing challenge fun has been her favorite part.
"We have done funny yoga in the middle of campus with all of these crazy poses, the flip water bottle contest where we had people come and try to flip the water bottle, we had a fat suit and a bunch of crazy stuff to get people's attention," Leonard said. "It's just special to watch so many different people unite to make it happen.
Beyond the crazy marketing efforts to draw people to their event, it's the message from world renowned speaker Joe White whose topic of discussion will center on the question, 'Is God relevant today?'. In addition, Brooke Dunnigan who is a senior playing on the Lady Jack soccer team has received top recognition for her ability to help her team win back-to-back conference titles will share a personal message of hope to fellow students.
"I think it's important to have an event like this because there are people out there who feel alone who need to know there are people who are there for them or who want to be friends with them," said another volunteer coordinator for the event Jenna Morgan. "This gives people a chance to come together and hear a concert and some really inspiring people talk, but its also an avenue for students to meet others that share similar interests.
After Dark reaches thousands of students with the motto "where music and message meet" and tonight they filled the Grand Ballroom at SFA to put on the event they hope makes a lasting impression.
"Our hope is that this sets up opportunities for students to examine their lives, see how they can better their lives, and then after this we want to set them up in a positive way to be able to do that," Rodgers said.
The event kicked off Sunday evening and hosted bands Green River Ordinance, Band of Misfits, and the previously mentioned guest speakers.