Apparently, even earthquakes can’t keep William & Mary’s students from their commitment to service.
Approximately 200 of the College’s newest students – both freshmen and transfers – participated in the Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship’s fifth annual Students Helping Out Williamsburg (SHOW) Day on Tuesday, the same day on which a rare earthquake was felt throughout the region.
“Did anyone else feel that earthquake? It must have been all those SHOW Day volunteers out in the community making an IMPACT,” OCES tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
The SHOW Day volunteers participated in 12 service projects throughout the afternoon, ranging from posting fliers on campus for the Muscarelle Museum to cleaning fences at Dream Catchers, a local therapeutic riding center.
“Each sweep of your broom and shovel of mulch is you becoming part of a community and helping your organization toward its mission,” Kristina Snader ‘10, outgoing VISTA for student and community engagement, told the SHOW Day participants before sending them to their respective job sites. As one of three AmeriCorps VISTAs in OCES, Snader has coordinated numerous service projects in the community during the last year. SHOW Day was her last event.
On Barksdale Field, right beside the Jamestown Dorms, one group of students painted a model house that is intended to help raise awareness and $65,000 in financial support for a full-size Habitat for Humanity house that the College hopes to build next spring. Noah Kim ‘13 and Emma Merrill ’13 served as the student leaders for the afternoon project, which left the house covered in white paint, green and blue trim and multi-colored hand prints.
“Really, I think (SHOW Day) speaks to this culture of community service that we’ve developed at William & Mary that is such a strong element of the College and something we really want to bring new students into right from the get-go,” said Kim.
Kim said that he and the other student leaders aimed to make the SHOW Day participants feel welcome and get them involved so that they could “meet people who are passionate about the same things they are – passionate about social justice and helping their community and giving their time.”
Ebony Cornitcher ’12 and Tina Fischel ’13, student leaders in charge of a group that helped out at the Virginia Living Museum, said that they, too, hoped the day brought new students together and educated them about the communities they are now part of, beyond campus.
“I hope they really get a sense of the Virginia community,” said Cornitcher.
Fischel, who said that service is one of the reasons that she came to William & Mary, said that SHOW Day gives students “another group of people on campus that they can reach out to and a really great resource (in OCES).”
In Hampton, Aaron Murphy ’15 was one of the students who helped record the narratives of refugee women with Catholic Charities. He said he signed up for SHOW Day to get to know others and to start standing out among his peers.
“I’ve been to a lot of different schools. William & Mary is my 12th school, and I’ve always learned at each one of them that you just have to jump in and meet people and just try to do as much stuff as you can and really just throw off a lot of your inhibitions,” he said. “This is a great way to meet people. It’s a smaller setting and I can start separating myself from the 1,400.”
Like Murphy, transfer student Alexis Higgins ’13, who helped in Mattey’s Garden at Matthew Whaley School, said she also signed up to meet people.
“Especially because I am a transfer, I wanted to meet people doing something besides activities and normal orientation stuff and also a way to get to know what William & Mary does,” said Murphy. “Last semester, I volunteered at a soup kitchen through my other school, and I liked that. It was a way to meet different people, so I knew that this would also be kind of a way to get to know people and get some volunteer experience right away.”
Catalina Benech ’15, who also helped with Mattey’s Garden, said that she, too, wanted to continue the service work she had started at her previous school.
“I signed up because I had done community service in my high school, and it was something that was a big part of my high school career and I really enjoyed it,” she said as she helped paint a wooden structure in the garden while other students worked alongside volunteers with the James City County/Williamsburg Master Gardener Association to pull weeds and tend to the other plants that bloomed brilliantly under Tuesday’s blue skies and bright sun.
“One of the reasons I came to William & Mary is because they had SHOW Day programs like this,” Benech said. “I wanted to get my foot in the community service door on the first day and try to participate as much as possible.
“It’s been good – a lot of fun, too.”