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Student Ashif Hassan helps at Binghamton University Acres Farm for the Welcome Week Service Project program. The program gives incoming students the opportunity to engage in service-learning projects around the community before the start of the academic year.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Service project connects incoming students to community
August 29, 2014Tweet
Jessica Ganay had a memorable time at Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park last week, but it wasn’t only because of the river otters, ring-tailed lemurs and other assorted creatures. This budding veterinarian got to help paint a new zebra mural on site for all future visitors to enjoy.
“People would walk by me while I was painting and say ‘Thank you. You’re making the zoo look prettier,’” said Ganay, a freshman from Rockland County, N.Y. “It just made me feel good about myself because I was helping out the community.”
Ganay was one of 60 Binghamton University students who took part in in the Welcome Week Service Project, a pilot program sponsored by the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs that gave incoming students the opportunity to engage in service-learning projects around the community before the start of the academic year.
The Welcome Week Service Project evolved from discussions made during development of the University’s Road Map. The purpose of the project is two-fold, program organizer Marty Wygmans said.
“The first purpose is to help them identify and become comfortable with a peer group early on,” Wygmans said. “The second is to help those same students learn about the Binghamton community, to take them out to these service sites and have them build a connection to the community. It’s all about connection-building and giving back to the community that Binghamton University is so proud to be a part of.”
Invitations to the project were sent to students in pre-established groups, including Student Support Services and the Binghamton Advantage program, as well as to local students and the engineering community. Interested students had to explain why they wanted to participate.
Students worked at four sites in Broome County, including:
• Binghamton University Acres Farm, where students performed basic farming maintenance, learned about sustainable farming practices and toured the Nature Preserve;
• Anne McGuinness Elementary School in Endicott, where students completed a professionally designed tiger on the face of the school’s athletic building;
• Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, where students completed a professionally designed scene of South Africa in the penguin exhibit;
• Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, where students completed various projects to help spruce up the center, including touching up paint on fences
Gabrielle Martinez hadn’t been involved in any community service before arriving at Binghamton, but she had helped her uncle tend to his home garden in Orange County, N.Y. Harvesting beans and potatoes, and doing sheet mulching at Binghamton University Acres Farm was right up her alley.
“It’s just good to give back what you take,” Martinez said. “I think this is really important because I think a lot about the direction that the world is going in terms of food and sustainability.
The organizing committee will review the program and decide whether or not to renew it, or even expand it, for next year, said Monique Reeser, a graduate assistant serving on the committee. Reeser knows the uncertainty that comes of being an incoming freshman and believes that the project offers students a good opportunity to get acclimated to the community — and to do so in a meaningful way.
“As incoming freshmen, it’s a new experience, so we want them to feel welcomed right off the bat, and we want them to have a jumpstart in making their peer connections,” Reeser said. “But what’s really important is that they make their peer connections through something that’s helping the community, too. Binghamton University is very committed to service, and we want that to be something that’s instilled in the students as soon as they get here.”