Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) University celebrated Homecoming & Family Weekend with students, alumni, parents and faculty and staff, taking part in time-honored traditions – and starting new ones as well. Students and staff were able to partake in a variety of events, including the 41st Great American Bug Race, hosted by PBA’s science club to raise funds for research trips, Sailfish Jack’d, a rigorous strength competition, and a Workship community service project at Lourdes Noreen McKeen, a senior living retirement community. The weekend also introduced Sailgating, PBA’s unique spin on tailgating, before the men’s soccer game. Students and families enjoyed face painting, live music, a food tent and more. This year’s Homecoming & Family Weekend marked the highest number of registrants in PBA’s history with over 950 individuals signed up.
One of the highlights of Homecoming & Family Weekend was the chapel service, where PBA honored Bailey Hughes, the recipient of PBA’s Alumna of the Year Award. Bailey Hughes shared about her time at PBA, and she spoke about how her experience ultimately shaped what she is doing now as the founder of The Hands and Feet, a nonprofit that seeks to deliver resources to children and families impacted by the child welfare system.
Bailey Hughes discovered PBA through a pamphlet she received in the mail while living in Southeastern Iowa. Desperate to escape the frigid weather, she was enticed by the blue skies and intracoastal waterway right across the street from the dorm rooms. Shortly thereafter, she toured campus and immediately felt at home. “When I pulled onto campus, I felt this immediate sense of belonging for the first time in my life. I felt like I was accepted, loved and wanted,” she explained. “For me, that was the first day that my life really began.”
During Welcome Week, PBA offers a wide array of activities and events for freshmen, giving them a taste of campus life and an opportunity to connect with fellow Sailfish. One of the events is a Workship project, where students are able to partake in a time of worship and community service. Hughes signed up, and her eyes were immediately opened to an entirely different world. “It was such an eye opening experience for me,” she said. “I was shocked that there was such wealth and poverty within mere miles of each other in West Palm Beach.”
Workship made her aware of the needs of those right in her own backyard. “I was used to living on this beautiful campus in this nice dorm room, and I drove less than ten minutes away for a Workship project and was in extreme poverty. I was shocked,” said Hughes. “I knew I wanted to make a difference.”
Hughes graduated in 2013 and after years of struggling with infertility, she and her husband felt called to foster care and adoption. In 2016 they obtained their foster care license, and their home soon became a revolving door of sorts. Over the span of five years, they fostered 23 children – four of whom they adopted.
In 2021, Hughes and her husband closed their home, but she had a hard time walking away from foster care as it so profoundly impacted her life. “Because of my personal experiences, I recognized that there was this need to get supplies to families and children that were entering the foster care system,” she said. In an effort to provide a solution, Hughes and her sister, Makayla, founded The Hands and Feet. In the first two years alone, The Hands and Feet has served over 3,500 children, and they are continuing to grow at a rapid pace.
Hughes ended her talk by urging the listeners to get involved. “Our impact and our mission is not just serving these children here, but it is reminding them that they are wanted, chosen and accepted.”