by Robin L. Flanigan
Annelise Modica ’17 spent the afternoon during Nazareth College’s 22nd annual orientation Day of Service volunteering at Foodlink, separating cooking oils and salad dressings, tossing dented cans, and checking expiration dates on donations to the nonprofit food bank.
She was one of 475 students, faculty, and staff to participate this past August in a traditional part of the freshman orientation process that immediately emphasizes to new students the College’s longstanding commitment to the community and gives first-year undergrads a chance to get to know one another.
“I did community service at my high school every year and was really happy to find out that Nazareth has this,” says the physical therapy major from Buffalo. “It’s very rewarding for me.”
Designed to encourage students to become active members of the community, the Day of Service this year matched volunteers with 27 community partners throughout the Greater Rochester area, including the Seneca Park Zoo (where Vice President for Student Development Kevin Worthen got to feed bananas to rhinos) and Sojourner House, a temporary housing shelter for women and children. Volunteers also groomed horse trails for riders with disabilities, supported recreation activities including intergenerational dialogues at senior living communities, and helped teachers ready classrooms for the first day of school, among other projects—logging an inspiring 1,425 hours of service altogether.
“There’s a spectrum of engagement, and this is one of those gateway opportunities,” says Adam Lewandowski, associate director for the Center for Civic Engagement, who spends months helping agencies develop projects that have the ability to make a significant impact. “You have the opportunity to learn from our community partners while providing a service to the community, and hopefully that sparks an interest. Students can identify a passion, then find ways to get more involved.”
It’s not uncommon for students to become regular volunteers at their Day of Service site; some have even built relationships that have led to internship and student teaching opportunities.
Njyhalo Pavati ’14, a business administration major with a minor in marketing and sports management, recalls being impressed as a freshman by Nazareth’s emphasis on community service as soon as students arrive on campus, and he welcomed the number of service opportunities available throughout the year. During his Day of Service as a freshman, he reset cell phones for a company that helps raise money for charity through recycling; this year he assisted with the event as an orientation leader.
From Boulder, Colo., Pavati says he wants to be “a role model, someone the freshmen can look up to during their first experiences in a new environment. I try to be someone they’ll feel comfortable around.”
That support helps feed an equally important focus on teamwork, yet another Day of Service goal.
“This event introduces our new students to a college value of service and gives them a great chance to work together,” Lewandowski explains. “It’s a key part of orientation, and a wonderful tradition.”
Robin L. Flanigan is a freelance writer in Rochester, New York.
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