From community service projects that spanned all 11 neighborhoods in the City of Geneva, to a tour of downtown and a LOVE Geneva Lunch hosted on campus, first-year and transfer students were welcomed and immersed into both the HWS and Geneva communities throughout Orientation 2015. Students experienced the meaning behind the message, “love Geneva, and it will love you back,” as they volunteered with residents on more than 30 projects and received a taste – literally – of what Geneva has to offer.
On Saturday morning, 753 first-years, transfer students, and Orientation Mentors participated in the 16th annual Orientation Day of Service, initiating the partnership between the Classes of 2019 and local residents and organizations. The students were sent to 32 locations throughout the local community, and for the first time, to all of Geneva’s neighborhoods.
“My thanks goes not only to you and the community partners, but to the City of Geneva and the immediate environment,” said President Mark D. Gearan at the Day of Service kick-off on the Quad. “The city has been a great host and this is a very special and tangible way to give back to Geneva and say ‘thanks.’ It’s the right thing to do.”
Many students joined with local residents to maintain the beauty of the “uniquely urban” City of Geneva by participating in clean-up and gardening efforts at neighborhood parks.
In the Arbors Neighborhood of Reed and High streets, more than a dozen students helped local residents improve the landscaping at Arbors Green Park, including Jiaxun Liu ’19, of Wuhan, China; Orientation Mentor Sophia Melvin ’18, of Ithaca, N.Y.; Spencer Planit ’19, of Scarsdale, N.Y.; and Griffin Thrush ’19, of Westport, Conn. Students also assisted with an extensive clean-up at a nearby property.
“This is the third year at this site and I’ve really enjoyed hearing the stories about the progress of this park,” Melvin said. “It’s been great to be a part of that continuation of service today.”
Other groups had the chance to show off their green-thumb with Historic South Neighborhood resident Lynn Doyle in Pulteney Park, and with Founder’s Square Neighborhood residents Jim Schmidt, his 13-year-old daughter Lauren, and Councilman At-Large Tony DiCostanzo in Washington Street Cemetery. Another group of students created a butterfly garden in the City Central neighborhood at the intersection of Castle Street and Routes 5 and 20, working with Geneva residents Fred Brockway and Peggy Bruin to clean up the garden and plant new flowers.
Castle Heights Neighborhood residents Leslie Schaus and Barbara Crumlish, who worked with students to clean Lafayette Circle Park, said they enjoy the collaboration. “I just love when the Hobart and William Smith students help us. We always have such a great time and the students are so helpful. It’s a really great town-gown relationship,” Schaus said.
In addition to city-wide clean-up efforts, members of the Classes of 2019 hosted activities for residents in nursing homes; worked with the NAACP Backpack program to distribute school supplies to more than 500 local children; registered voters with the League of Women’s Voters; partnered with the Stop Hunger Now organization to package nearly 60,000 meals for children and families in need; and amid a multitude of theatre props and set pieces, helped members of the Geneva Theatre Guild organize their set storage space.
“We’re very appreciative for this help,” said Youth Theatre Coordinator Larry Ann Evans, who along with Board Member Mariah Ernhout-Fegley and Secretary Kathryn Snyder worked with the students. “It means the world to have Hobart and William Smith students come help us. We’re a small theatre organization with a very large set storage space; their work today is really a huge help.”
Several other groups helped local churches in the community with yardwork and clean-up projects. Students lent a hand to Trinity Church, St. Peter’s Church, Zion Church and Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, where a group of first-years worked with Larry Smart and Chris Smart from Cornell University to construct raised garden beds for the church’s community garden.
“Day of service is very rewarding to us all,” said Gavin Gross ’19, of Blairstown, N.J., who volunteered at Mt. Olive. “It makes me feel like I’m part of the Geneva community even though I just got here.”
Closer to campus, at the Geneva Garden Apartments, Day of Service volunteers hosted a celebration for the community’s children to kick off the launch of a new play area and community garden that’s being developed on adjoining HWS land. Professor Emeritus of Economics Christopher Gunn, who along with his wife, Hazel Dayton Gunn, an originator of the play area and garden project, were both on site for the celebration. The new community space is also being supported by Wyckoff Family Foundation.
At the Geneva Garden celebration, Aaron Cohen ’19, of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.; Aldo Giannattasio ’19, of Lovettsville, Va.; Erik Wolfe ’19, of Grand Lake, Colo.; and Daniel Macdonald ’19, of Center Conway, N.H., oversaw a bounce house with dozens of children and helped them decorate their bicycles with ribbons and other materials.
A group of students also worked with community members at the Washington St. Park, where a landscaping project took place. Some of the volunteers included Stephen Cosola ’19, of Garden City, N.Y.; Carolin Martinez Dias ’19, of New York, N.Y.; Orientation Mentor Jacque Kane ’18, of Binghamton, N.Y.; Grace Marshall ’19, of Petoskey, Mich.; and Nick Pugh ’19, of Boston, Mass.
While giving back to the local community introduced the Classes of 2019 to the engaged citizenship and service-learning inherent to being a member of the HWS and Geneva communities, other locally focused events throughout the weekend also helped the students get acquainted with the Geneva community while helping the first-years to cultivate their own sense of community and identity as the HWS Classes of 2019.
On Sunday, Orientation Mentors led small groups of first-year students on a “Love Geneva Tour,” through downtown. The tour made stops at City Hall, Lake Drum Brewery for a tasting of Red Jacket Orchard juices, and Joe’s Hots for Geneva-themed trivia.
“We didn’t have a tour of Geneva at Orientation last year, and I wish we did,” said Kate Hesler ’18, of Franconia, N.H., an orientation mentor who led first-years on a tour. “I thought it was a great way to introduce the first-years to downtown Geneva right from the start, so they can begin enjoying all it has to offer now.”
After the tour, the Classes convened on the Quad for a LOVE Geneva lunch, giving students the opportunity to reflect on the weekend over local favorites such as Cam’s Pizzeria, Main Moon, Simple Sweets Bakery, Bagels and Cakes, and the Bubble Tea Café.
“Orientation weekend was phenomenal,” said Orientation Coordinator Peter Budman ’15, MAT ’16. “Having the chance to explore Geneva and the HWS community and get remaining questions answered, prepared the Classes of 2019 for a successful first day of classes. It is my hope that students feel confident navigating their new home and exploring the countless opportunities available to them both here at HWS and in Geneva.”
For its inclusive, innovative and ongoing efforts to influence positive, communitywide change, Geneva was named a 2015 All-America City, a highly-selective honor awarded annually by the National Civic League to only 10 cities across the country. Geneva earned the national designation following the All-America City Competition in Denver, where a group representing the City, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Geneva City School District (GCSD) and youth residents delivered a dynamic presentation that included personal testimonials as well as a special rap performance. Geneva was the only city in New York to be nominated and named an All-America City. The Geneva 2020 initiative, a collaborative effort between HWS and GCSD to advance career and college readiness, graduation rates, and literacy rates of K-12 students, was a central part of the City’s submission.