Giving Back, Getting Back

Students volunteered in the community as part of Orientation Week.

Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Students make a difference right out of the gate through Orientation First-Year Service Day

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Members of the class of 2020 lent a helping hand across the greater Carlisle area on Friday, Aug. 26, during the Orientation First-Year Service Day. The annual event gave new students a chance to make a mark just two days after move-in while getting to know students with like interests.

Working side by side with fellow members of their First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs), 538 first-year students volunteered at 26 sites. Whether organizing supplies at a local nonprofit, working through special programs at the Cumberland County’s Bosler Library, weeding flower beds at a community garden, cleaning out a stream or picking up trash along a hiking trail, they all learned more about the local community, says Jessica Hampton ’17 (neurosciencebiochemistry & molecular biology), a seasoned campus volunteer.

“This event exposes first-year students to various opportunities and the ways they can get involved with different organizations,” said Hampton, who co-led a community-service FIG that volunteered at four local nonprofits the week before traveling to the site of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS) on First-Year Service Day. “And it’s a really great opportunity for students from all academic backgrounds and interests to get an idea of the kinds of relationships between the Dickinson community and the surrounding area.”

Hampton’s group saw that symbiosis in action when they helped clean up the inside of the CIIS farmhouse. According to Susan Rose, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and director of the Community Studies Center, it was the first cleanup event at that site since the farmhouse was saved from demolition, thanks to conversations and connections arising out of a 2012 symposium at Dickinson. Plans are underway to convert it to a gathering space and cultural heritage center.

Such intertwining histories run deep, and so does the drive to give back, said Donna Hughes, director of the Center for Service, Spirituality and Social Justice (CSSS). That’s why students are encouraged to get involved in service activities even before their first day of classes.

“We believe that students should be engaged in their community, doing service, because civic engagement is a big component of who we are as a college,” Hughes says.

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Published September 1, 2016