As students awoke to their first sunrise at Hobart and William Smith, they also joined the Colleges in one of its most cherished traditions – the Day of Service. All 690 incoming students spent the morning raking, weeding and helping to maintain and beautify areas across the Geneva and extended community.
This year also marked an exciting new chapter in the Orientation tradition – the Colleges’ involvement in KaBOOM!, the national playground building initiative that seeks to revive and unite communities. In conjunction with this Day of Service, KaBOOM! founder Darell Hammond will address all students at Convocation on Monday, August 29 at 5 p.m. on Stern Lawn.
“This Day of Service acts as a model for the level of citizenship we expect from our students,” said President Mark D. Gearan as he spoke to students on the Quad before they headed to their service sites. “We all have a role in this community, and what is wonderful about today is that our collective efforts will make a very tangible difference.”
For most of the first year students, this is their first introduction to the Geneva Community. This year’s Day of Service incorporated more than 30 sites in and around the city, including several churches, the Geneva Recreation Complex and Geneva city schools.
At the Geneva Community Center, more than 100 first years, Orientation Mentors, teens of the Boys and Girls Club and Geneva community members restored paths, repaintied sidewalk games and built KaBOOM! playground equipment and benches.
Sage Gerling, was also on hand, directing volunteers and getting her hands dirty herself. Gerling, a member of the Geneva Community Center Board and a volunteer with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Upstate New York Green Schools Initiative, was thrilled to have so many enthusiastic workers – and to be involved in a KaBOOM! project.
“This whole morning has just been great; the students have been wonderful,” said Gerling. “I’m so excited to be a part of a KaBOOM! project – especially for the Community Center. KaBOOM! is not just about play and being outside; it is about play for all ages – and that is who we serve at the Community Center. Teens, young children and the elderly use this facility. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the help of these students.”
Gerling also sees this first Day of Service as an opportunity to show firsthand how fulfilling and important such work in the community is. “Every year, we have HWS students who do so much through volunteer work,” explained Gerling. “We hope that through this Day of Service, we’ll interest first year students very early on, and that we’ll see some of them return.”
At West Street School, the site which is getting the largest KaBOOM! renovation, students donned tool belts and wielded socket wrenches to construct major pieces of play equipment and entire play-sets.
“Look! I made a slide!” enthused Mike Lucas ’15 of Pittsburgh, Penn., who worked with his new classmates to assemble the large piece. “Being from out of state, this service has really let me get to know Geneva and its community members. Everyone is so friendly; you can really tell that they want what is best for Geneva and they care deeply for their city.”
For many students, volunteering is nothing new. Many members of the Classes of 2015 were engaged members of their hometown and high school communities, spending countless hours lending a hand where needed.
Others, however, are getting their first taste of what it means to do community service. “I’ve never done community service like this before. It’s a new experience; it’s just a good feeling,” said Caitlyn D’Agati ’15, of Clifton Park, NY, who was hard at work preparing the ground at the Cracker Factory for grass seed. “It’ll feel even better when all of the hard work comes together in the end.”
“I can’t believe it’s only the second day that we’ve been here – it doesn’t feel like it at all,” remarked Lucas Catania ’15 of Cazenovia, NY. Catania spent his morning landscaping at the Seneca Lake Terrace Assisted Living Community. “We’re out and helping in the community; I feel like I’m part of Geneva already.”