“The Colleges ask you to begin this morning by making a commitment,” said Donna Albro, director of Peer Education in Human Relations, to the 605 first-year students gathered on the Quad Saturday morning. “We ask you to make a commitment to give back to Geneva, the United States and the world.”
With those words, Albro and Director of Community Engagement and Service Learning Ave Bauder sent the students off in buses to more than 40 service learning sites in Geneva and the surrounding region.
This year's service learning projects included everything from washing cars to benefit United Way to sharing life experiences with senior citizens at the Clifton Springs Nursing Home. The service projects, whether in food pantries, hospitals or churches, taught first-years about teamwork and how they can have an impact on their new community.
Somewhere between pulling weeds and painting buildings, something started to occur to the first-years. “Service projects are a great way for us to give back to some great causes,” said first-year Alexander Block, who scrubbed down and hosed off cars for the United Way fundraiser. “These projects definitely encourage us to get involved in public service as early as our first year. I'm confident that most of us will respond and give some time to public service during our years at Hobart and William Smith.”
As the humid afternoon hours brought projects to a close, Orientation mentors were positive that the Classes of 2011 were getting the big picture. “Here at HWS, public service is vital,” said Orientation mentor Marie Catillaz '10. “It's so important to us because it's so important to the world even on the most local level. So we're encouraging first-years to get involved with public service in Geneva and surrounding areas instead of simply being involved in their lives on campus.”
Although they may have come back to campus a little sweaty, kind of hungry and a bit dirty, first-years definitely returned to their new home better educated about how they can make a difference in the Finger Lakes region and in the world.