Clad in a white jumpsuit and goggles, Dave Johnson slid on a painter’s mask and prepared to belly-crawl his way through a tiny opening at the base of the one-story Toano home. A group of freshmen in similar attire stood in the backyard and watched as their leader peeked into the dark space where they’d soon be installing insulation.
“I bet when you signed up, you had no idea you’d be doing this,” Johnson remarked before disappearing beneath the house. “This is what William and Mary is about.”
Johnson (’09) and his group of freshmen were just a few of the nearly 200 William and Mary students who volunteered to spend Aug. 26 – the last day of summer break -- conducting service projects throughout the area as a part of the second annual Students Helping Out Williamsburg (SHOW) Day. Created by the College’s Office of Student Volunteer Services (OSVS), the event is meant to provide new students an orientation to the service opportunities available in the community. According to a recent survey, William and Mary students contribute about 323,000 hours of community service per year.
“SHOW Day is a great way to introduce incoming students to how we partner with our community, working closely with them to achieve their goals while helping students to learn more about Williamsburg, society and themselves in the process,” said Melody Porter, the new assistant director of the OSVS. “We hope that SHOW Day gives them a taste of service that will lead them to further community engagement, whether they volunteer regularly, intern, create academically based projects, or come up with new ways to offer their gifts to the world.”
The day began with a lunch at the College’s Trinkle Hall where the students received light blue, SHOW Day T-shirts. Director of the OSVS Drew Stelljes welcomed the students and discussed the preparation materials that the students had received prior to the day. William and Mary Interim President W. Taylor Reveley III spoke about the tradition of service at William and Mary and thanked the new students for becoming part of it.
“It is genuinely good that we are all together for SHOW Day,” said Reveley. “Service really is an important aspect of William and Mary. Using part of our time, part of our energy, part of our talent to do some good in the world has always been a crucial element in William and Mary’s ethos.”
After the lunch, the students– about 177 of whom were freshmen – left in small groups to conduct a variety of service projects at local non-profit agencies throughout the area, including Head Start, Avalon, Housing Partnerships and the Heritage Humane Society. Approximately 20 upperclassmen led the projects.
Freshman Katie Gehron was one of the students who helped to install insulation as part of a Housing Partnerships project. Gehron only just recently returned to the United States after living for four years in Tanzania, where her parents are diplomats who also work for the Peace Corps and USAID. She said that SHOW Day seemed like a great opportunity to get familiar with both the Williamsburg community and the service opportunities at the College.
“I decided it would probably be a very good way to find other people who were really interested in doing community work, and -- because at my old school I always did a lot -- I thought it would be another way to just make sure I started,” she said.
Johnson said that he thought it was great that so many freshmen signed up to start their College career with service.
“Since I got involved with service kind of late at the College, I’d really like to see more people getting involved early,” he said. “I think that coming out of high school, they really aren’t expecting the kind of service that we do here. As Drew Stelljes talked about earlier, it’s really an engagement thing here. It’s really part of the education. It’s more than just volunteering. It’s really what makes us William and Mary students.”
Students can find out about other service opportunities through the OSVS Web site at http://web.wm.edu/osvs/ or during the annual volunteer fair, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 4 in the Sadler Center. For more information on civic engagement at William and Mary, visit http://web.wm.edu/civicengagement/.