On Wednesday, the entire first year class participated in Community Engagement Day.
This day, initiated by former Goshen College president Shirley Showalter, has been a tradition at Goshen College for 15 years. Originally, it was meant for the entire campus. Her aim was to encourage a sense of service on the campus and to engage students with the community.
Launa Rohrer, dean of students, said, “Goshen College's commitment to service was part of the founding ethos,” Rohrer said. “The GC motto ‘culture for service’ and the core value of ‘servant leadership’ speak to the posture of offering gifts, talents and knowledge to leave the world a better place.”
Now this day is centered on the first-year class.
Beverly Lapp, the core curriculum director, said, “The goals of service day have evolved too as [has] this class, Core 100 (ICC), [and] a very specific outcome of the class is preparation for cross-cultural encounters. So, getting out of the classroom and interacting with a community agency gives us more experiential ways of thinking about that.”
This event is also used to build community within the various first-year classes that participate.
Students served at eight different agencies. Goshen has been developing relationships with these organizations for years, hoping to bridge the gap between the community and the institution. Each year, Student Life reaches out to these organizations to find out where the students can help most.
This year, the agencies included: Habitat for Humanity, LaCasa, Inc., Boys & Girls Club of Goshen, Soup of Success, Feed the Children, Pathways Retreat, MCC and Elkhart River cleanup.
Each year, Community Engagement Day happens in the last week of September. The aim is to integrate the lessons in class with active engagement. This year, service day occurred on Wednesday, Sept. 24.
At the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen, there are over 1,000 members who are mostly children from low-income families. The children arrive at the club after school and some stay as late as 8 p.m. Here, the students from the Core 100 class were put to work picking vegetables from the massive garden and chopping them up for canning. Half of the group was in the kitchen, the other half in the garden.
Jan Shetler, history and Core 100 professor, said, “They [Boys & Girls Club] were trying this year to change their diet, so they took out all of the hotdogs and chicken nuggets and vending machines. So, they planted big gardens and their going to can stuff and freeze stuff and even send some stuff home with the kids.”
Sohail Das, a first-year, said that working the kitchen “shows us how much we take for granted. I mean some kids eat here because their parents don’t have food for them. It makes us realize how much we have.”
The Core 100 classes will debrief about the event on Friday, and there are plans in progress for a second service opportunity in the spring semester.