Goshen College first-year students participated in the 19th annual Community Engagement Day last Wednesday, September 20. This event, part of Goshen’s Identity, Culture and Community (ICC) course, sent nine sections of students across Elkhart County for a day of service at various locations, including the Boys and Girls Club, Greencroft, Habitat for Humanity, and even the Elkhart river, where students canoed and collected debris.In general, the ICC course hopes to teach students to think about their identities, learn about cultures and build community, while also providing a general introduction to college life and a place to ask questions. It addresses issues that students will encounter on campus or on SST and helps create intercultural competence. As the name would imply, Community Engagement Day focuses on community – both at Goshen College and in the wider Goshen area.
just first-year students would participate to integrate them into Goshen’s motto, “Culture for Service.”
Jan Bender Shetler instructs section nine of ICC with Dr. Mitch Mitchell. She explained that Community Engagement Day helps first-year students get connected to the greater Goshen community while serving the common good.
Her ICC students understand this.“It’s such a great way to engage in the community,” said Katja Norton, one of Bender Shetler’s ICC students. “It makes living here more personal and you’re able to not just hear about the growth, but see it and be a part in it.”
Norton’s words tied in closely to the work her group did with LaCasa - an organization that helps people buy and renovate homes so they can become homeowners and improve quality of life in the area. Bender Shelter shared that LaCasa values each volunteer’s work at ten dollars an hour; her group of students gave the organization $1500-$2000 worth of labor.
But the day was more than just helping the greater community and the organizations in it; students built community with their own classmates as well. Starting their day together at 8 a.m. with breakfast, Bender Shetler’s 24 students then split into three groups for a variety of work.
“In one day we aren’t saving the community,” Bender Shetler said, “but it gets students out into the community and they can see that each one of them are a part of it.”
It should be noted, the work they were doing was not easy labor. “These kids were sweating,” Bender Shetler said.
Students did work ranging from pulling down vines from old walls, removing large boulders from a crawlspace, and taking down layers of wallpaper, to totally emptying a house of garbage after the resident abandoned the home.
“I was wearing a hat to work,” said first-year Laura Miller who scraped wallpaper for hours. “When I took it off I could see the line of dirt on my forehead.”
Though sweaty, they were able to have fun. They had music on and joked about the stuff they were finding, like 20 massive TVs in the basement of one house.
Miller also shared that she was very familiar with doing service projects like their work at LaCasa, but Bender Shetler noted that this wasn’t the case with their whole group. She witnessed them being “kind of blown away” by the projects. During their next class, some students admitted they had no idea that there was so much need in Goshen, which seems like a quiet, little, middle-class town.
“We don’t do this where I’m from,” Bender Shetler reported one student admitting. She’s glad that the day got all the students on the same page, and that these activities are something everyone can be exposed to at Goshen College
“I think it’s a core part of what we stand for,” Bender Shetler said. “We think that Goshen graduates will go out to serve the common good of the world. What they do can help communities be more equal and more just.”