August 3, 2009
WooCorps students gather for a photo before Campus Community Day on July 31.
WOOSTER, Ohio - After 11 weeks of hard labor, WooCorps took a bow, but not a break, on Friday. The College of Wooster's innovative summer employment program for students celebrated its success with Campus Community Day - a series of service projects that also included faculty and staff volunteers.
Conceived by the College's Dean of Students Office in conjunction with the Office of Residence Life, WooCorps provided summer jobs for nearly 200 students who might otherwise have been without work and may have had to drop out of school as a result. The program provided a steady wage and a cache of perks, including free lodging, two complimentary meals each day, and a $1,000 scholarship for those who logged a minimum number of hours.
"I think (WooCorps) showed how much the College cares about its students and how much they want to keep us here," said Ryan Klink, a rising junior from Columbia Station, Ohio. "It has been a great opportunity to make some money, work with friends, and meet new people."
The program also helped the participants gain a better understanding about the College infrastructure and a greater appreciation for the people who work there. "Before I might have tossed a candy wrapper on the ground and not thought much about it," said Klink, a member of the campus grounds crew for the summer. "Now I realize how hard these people work and how much pride they have in the campus, so I would never do that again. The experience has really opened my eyes."
Perhaps most importantly, WooCorps helped to build a sense of community among the student workers and others on campus. "I got to know students that I didn't know before this summer," said Sara Muhammad, a rising sophomore from Atlanta who worked in the Dean of Students Office. "We have a good feeling about what we accomplished." David Small, a rising junior from Kingston, Jamaica, who worked with the summer conference staff, reflected on the bonds between the students and the staff. "It was interesting to see how the campus functions behind the scenes," he said. "When I see the grounds crew out working this fall, I can say 'hey, I know those guys.'"
On Friday, Klink and hundreds of other WooCorps students joined a bevy of College volunteers in fanning out across campus to show their appreciation. The festivities began with a group photo featuring a 15x24-ft WooCorps banner. From there, students made their way to various sites, including the swale between Galpin Park Softball Field and Bornhuetter Residence Hall, where they continued work on a 24x32-ft pavilion. Just east of the pavilion, students put the finishing touches on four newly assembled picnic tables that will go in the pavilion, while others made plywood cow cutouts for Homecoming in September.
To the west, a group of students painted the inside of the dugouts at the softball field; to the south, students and volunteers applied a much-need coat of paint to Holden Annex; and to the east, another group of students and volunteers put up split-rail fencing around the "COW Patch," a 75x125-ft garden with tomatoes, peppers (sweet and hot), eggplant, onions, carrots, lettuce, and broccoli. Most of the crops will be harvested and used in Wooster's dining halls (some already have). There are also plans to make marinara sauce and salsa, which will be canned and distributed (some will go to People-to-People Ministries).
The garden has been tended to by three students - Sara Falkoff, Becca Furspan, and Adria Hankey-Brown - and each one has developed a deep attachment to the project. "I have been pushing for a garden on campus for a long time," said Falkoff, a rising junior from Westerville, Ohio, "and this was the perfect opportunity. We are very invested in this, and we don't want to give it up." Furspan added that there are other advantages to the garden as well, including possible involvement by the newly formed environmental studies program.
As for the quality of the work on Friday and throughout the summer, Doug Laditka, director of maintenance operations and a 1999 Wooster graduate who supervised many of the students, commended them for their approach to each assignment. "These are classic Wooster kids in the sense that you describe what you want, send them on their way, and then watch as they figure out how to get it done."
At the end of Friday's session, students and other volunteers gathered at the southern end of campus and proceeded northward, making a clean sweep of campus by picking up litter and tidying up the grounds. The group then gathered near the new pavilion for a picnic lunch. "We wanted to end with a big celebration," said Christie Kracker, associate dean of students and director of residence life as well as one of the organizers of the WooCorps program. "We wanted to have a tangible reminder of all that we accomplished this summer."
Those memories will be preserved in a WooCorps time capsule that will be buried below the yet-to-be-laid concrete floor of the new pavilion.
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