Orientation Service Project Featured – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Orientation Service Project Featured

An article in the Finger Lakes Times featured community service work of the Classes of 2015 as part of their orientation. The article explains the benefits of the Colleges’ orientation service program are two-sided: “The community got three hours of enthusiastic workers doing a wide variety of tasks. The students got the satisfaction of starting their college careers with knowledge of Geneva, helping some 30 local agencies and organizations and getting to know each other.”

A number of first-year and transfer students were interviewed as they worked throughout the Geneva community during the day Saturday, including Rachel Newcomb, who is quoted, “It’s a nice way to get oriented to the city as well as the college and to meet other students who will remain friends during college.”

The full article follows.


Finger Lakes Times
HWS students kick off college careers with Day of Service

David Shaw • August 28, 2011

GENEVA — Some 700 first year students at Hobart and William Smith College, as well as the community, benefited from Saturday’s Day of Service.

The community got three hours of enthusiastic workers doing a wide variety of tasks. The students got the satisfaction of starting their college careers with knowledge of Geneva, helping some 30 local agencies and organizations and getting to know each other.

This was the 12th consecutive year that community service has been a mandatory part of orientation for first-year students.

At West Street School, students were assigned to work with mentors and a company representative in assembling playground equipment that will be installed at the school.

“I knew this was part of orientation when I enrolled, so it’s not a surprise,” said Kristen Brayden of Clifton Park, near Albany. “I think it’s a great idea. A lot of colleges are doing this. We give our time and effort to the community in exchange for hosting us.”

“It’s part of an all-around education,” added Abbe Lentz of Syracuse.

“It’s a nice way to get oriented to the city as well as the college and to meet other students who will remain friends during college,” said Rachel Newcomb of Asheville, N. C.

Lentz and Newcomb are roommates, but they met Brayden for the first time. Assembling another piece of the playground equipment was Joe Gibbons of Long Island. Technically, he’s a sophomore, but he transferred to Hobart from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Because he’s new to campus, he and other transfer students are part of the orientation and day of service.

“I like it. It helps the community, and it feels good knowing that I helped build a playground for the kids,” Gibbons said. “I hope to do more volunteering during my time here.”

Over at the Geneva Community Center on Carter Road, a group of about 75 swarmed the grounds. They weeded, laid down fabric and mulch, cleared trails and installed tetherball poles, horseshoe pits, other interactive games and benches.

Austin VonDras of St. Louis, Mo., and Brendan Fitzgerald of Boston, Mass., were shoveling mulch into wheelbarrows and pushing their loads wherever needed.

Both said they knew this would be part of orientation and that they embraced the concept.

“It’s a great idea. It helps us know the community better and to know each other better,” VonDras said.

He said he and Fitzgerald are in different dormitories and might have never met each other during their years at Hobart if it weren’t for the service work.

“If I can work it into my schedule, I’d like to do more volunteer work,” Fitzgerald said. Marnie Merrill of Hope, Maine, was weeding a nectar garden on the grounds, placing fabric on the soil and putting mulch on top.

“I like doing this. It’s work, but it’s rewarding work that helps others in the community I’ll be calling home for most of the next four years,” she said. “I’m definitely OK with it.”

The 700 students and 100 mentors worked at 31 sites in the greater Geneva area, according to Katie Flowers, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning for the Colleges.

“The feedback I’ve gotten from students is that it’s enjoyable and very worthwhile. They genuinely like to help the community, and it sets a tone for their college careers and hopefully their lives,” she said.

“Our experience is that most students do continue to volunteer during their time here and during their lives,” Flowers said.

Mark Gearan, president of the Colleges, addressed the students before they headed out to their assigned work areas, and he later visited some work sites.

Gearan, former director of the Peace Corps, made community service a part of orientation in his second year as president.

He’s made it a priority every year since. He said the students arrived on campus Friday to meet academic advisors and settle into their residences.

“The Day of Service orients them to Geneva. I told them Geneva has been a wonderful host for the college for some two centuries, and it’s been a great partnership,” Gearan said. “This allows them to give something back and to get a sense of responsibility. They get to create something tangible that makes a difference,” he said.

“It’s a great way to start their college careers, and one goal of the program is to inspire them to keep volunteering, continuing to give back to the community while here,” he said.

This year, some students took part in the first of two work projects with the nationally acclaimed nonprofit group KaBOOM!. KaBOOM! is a national organization dedicated to promoting play for American children by building eco-friendly playgrounds across the country.

Since its inception in 1995, the organization has built thousands of playgrounds throughout the country.

The work done at West Street School, Geneva Middle School and the Geneva Community Center Saturday were all considered kaBOOM! projects. Other beneficiaries of the students’ efforts Saturday included Phelps Art Center, Seneca Lake State Park, Keuka Outlet Trail, Camp Onseyawa, YMCA and Geneva Theatre Guild.