First-year students participate in annual Community Engagement Day

First-year students participate in annual Community Engagement Day

Instead of attending their regularly-scheduled classes, all first-year students participated in Goshen College’s annual Community Engagement Day last Wednesday. The 10 Identity, Culture and Community (ICC) classes, led by faculty and administrators, traveled throughout Goshen and Elkhart to provide service to various nonprofit agencies.

Rocio Diaz, associate director of community engagement, organized the day by contacting various organizations and asking if they were interested in hosting volunteers. Locations this year included La Casa, Soup for Success, the Boys and Girls Club, Greencroft, Goshen Youth Arts and several others.

For 20 years, Goshen College has set aside a day for service. Previously, all students participated; first-years went with their colloquium classes (an early version of ICC) while upper-level students joined on a volunteer basis.

The language switched from “Service Day” to “Community Engagement Day” within the last few years, said Keith Graber-Miller, professor of Bible and religion and ICC professor.

“The change served as a reminder for students and faculty to think of service as something more like ‘accompaniment’ rather than ‘doing something for people that they couldn’t do on their own,’” Graber-Miller said.

“This day does good on several levels,” said Duane Stoltzfus, director of the CORE general education program.

“Aside from the primary incentive, which is to provide a labor boost to nonprofit organizations in the greater Goshen area, we want our first-year students to remember that they are an important part of this larger community, whose health will always depend on volunteers and goodwill,” Stoltzfus said. “Beyond that, the day also provides a chance for students to bond with their classmates and professors.”

“The change served as a reminder for students and faculty to think of service as something more like ‘accompaniment’ rather than ‘doing something for people that they couldn’t do on their own,’” Graber-Miller said.

Students and faculty alike noted that the day went smoothly. Some took advantage of the beautiful weather, such as the group led by Jessica Baldanzi, professor of English, who spent the day at Greencroft. Students there helped residents onto hayrides and took them on wheelchair walks outside.

The class led by Anna Kurtz Kuk, assistant professor of theater, spent the day at Pathways Retreat, a 17-acre nature preserve for spiritual renewal. The group worked outside clearing brush, chopping wood and installing an irrigation system for rainwater.

“It was a nice day overall,” said Robert Sanders, a student in the group. “I believe we all as a class bonded with each other and had a considerate amount of fun during the hours we were there.”

The group led by Jan Bender Shetler, professor of history, traveled to the Elkhart County Fairgrounds to help set up for the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale that took place this past Friday and Saturday. The team set up tables, painted parking lines and organized the food tent.

“[I have] always valued community service because it gives you a chance to look beyond yourself and consider the needs of those around you,” said Olivia Ewry, a student in Bender Shetler’s group. “I really appreciate the opportunity to get involved in good causes and to do some good in the world.”

One of the five core values – servant leadership – embodies Goshen College’s rationale behind having students engage in service. Ideally, students will make regular service contributions on their own in the future after being exposed to the various nonprofit agencies in the region, said Graber Miller.

This exposure is especially beneficial for students not from the Elkhart County area.

Madison Coles, a student who volunteered at the Goshen Youth Arts program, noted that in addition to accomplishing a lot throughout the day by cleaning, painting and garden work, the opportunity gave her some more knowledge about the Goshen area.

“For me, Community Engagement Day is a living example of what we stand for at Goshen College,” said Kurtz Kuk. “It’s a way to support the community in which we live, and it’s a way to introduce first-year students to the Goshen College motto of ‘Culture for service.’”

Landon Weldy, Staff Writer
Landon Weldy, Staff Writer
Written by Landon Weldy, Staff Writer

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