Swarthmore freshmen get lesson in community service

August 31, 2012 3:25:19 PM PDT
As college students begin heading back to classes across the region, it was not your usual orientation at Swarthmore College.

The entire incoming class of 2016 was volunteering at non-profits and community service organizations in Philadelphia, Swarthmore and Delaware county Friday

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We're talking about 400 new students, all incoming freshmen, and it was the first time the college has organized a community service effort of this size for first-year students.

About 20 students were found weeding gardens and working on the grounds at Hillside Farms in Media.

"It's about 10 minutes off campus," said Victoria Stitt. "We are picking out some weeds so they can harvest more easily later on."

"During orientation, the major thing we want to do is get them acclimated to the campus, but we also want them to be a part of the community," said Jennifer Marks-Gold, an advisor at Swarthmore.

The students engage in a wide variety of community service, including playing a little pool at the Chester Senior Center.

Chester senior Willie King gave some lessons to freshman Christie McGinn who had never played pool before.

"He's such a good teacher," she said.

The idea for the project is to illustrate Swarthmore's commitment to encouraging their students to make a difference in the world, and to give them an opportunity to actively engage with the school's surrounding communities.

At Chester High School, students were painting a mural.

"This is an attempt to try to put something meaningful on the wall and hope that it won't get defaced," said Chester artist Van Buren N. Payne.

"You get kind of in a bubble, and you don't realize there is an outside world, and that there are people out there who need help or just want to connect," said Advisor Ruth Taylor.

At the YWCA a few blocks away, they were busy sprucing up.

The orientation effort was organized by the Swarthmore Dean's Office and Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.

"We think it is really important to put their intellectual work together with their understanding and contributions to the community. It is part of what makes us special," said Joy Charlton, Executive Director of the Lang Center.

The students also spent time cleaning a garden in Aston, Pa. Friday for the parents of murdered children.

They were also sorting and packing books for inmates in Philadelphia, and packing food at the Philabundance Food Bank.


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