In nearly 90-degree heat on Aug. 27, five Oberlin College students mowed, raked, and weeded the area around Oberlin High School’s dormant greenhouse for about two hours.
The effort was part of the college’s annual Day of Service in which freshmen volunteer for community projects. Rosamund Dyer, Katie Lambert, Marlee Neugass, and Mark Sheehan were among 188 freshmen participating, said Trecia Pottinger, director of the Bonner Center for Service and Learning, which organized the project.
Junior Ana Richardson, a Bonner scholar from Eugene, Ore., also worked at the greenhouse as part of the community service commitment of her scholarship. The college has a history of community service, which the students said they support.
“I know I’m going to be here for four years, so the sooner I get invested in the community, the better,” said Dyer, of Bellingham, Wash. “Oberlin’s a really cool community. I like it.”
Neugass, of Marlboro, N.J., said it was a good way to start her college career and gain knowledge of Oberlin outside the college campus. “I don’t want to feel like I’m a visitor for four years,” she said.
Other groups taking part in the day included Family Promise of Lorain County — a group that helps homeless families — Oberlin Community Services, the Peace Community Church, and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. The day began in 1996 and this year included a nearly two-hour orientation program in the morning.
The orientation included a panel discussion featuring Oberlin Schools superintendent David Hall, city councilwoman Sharon Pearson, and Jason Williams, founder of Get With the Program. Williams’ group provides STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education to children.
Pottinger said the orientation was designed to encourage students to volunteer for more long-term community projects. Because there were a limited number of spaces for the orientation, Pottinger said there were fewer students participating than last year, but that was by design. She said there was a waiting list due to an overflow of students who wanted to take part.
“The idea is to be more intentional in engaging students in meaningful community work and providing more historical and other context about the community they’re going to be living and doing service in,” Pottinger said. “Before, there was very minimal reflection and orientation to the community in general.”
The students at the high school worked with Hall and Langston Middle School principal Chris Frank.
Hall, who was covered with sweat and grass from using a weed whacker, said he was grateful for the help with the approximately 15-by-10-foot greenhouse that will be used for science projects. Besides the benefits of the cleanup, he said the effort may lead college students to volunteer in the future at the Oberlin Schools.
“It teaches them what Oberlin’s really about,” he said. “It’s about giving back.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow| News-Tribune Freshmen Mark Sheehan, Marlee Neugass, and Katie Lambert weed Aug. 27 at the Oberlin High School greenhouse. The effort was part of Oberlin College’s annual Day of Service in which incoming freshmen take part in community projects.