Spring into action: Campus groups reach out to community

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March 22, 2011

12:50 AM

Soaking up the Williamsburg sun on Saturday, Myraida Davis ’11 spent her time outside in Jamestown Settlement quizzing pirates. While trying to get them to break character, Davis and fellow College of William and Mary students also assisted by checking in reenactors and by polling visitors about which historical performance they preferred.

While some might think of this Saturday activity as a history nerd’s class project, Davis was contributing her time to one of 12 community service projects as a part of the Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship’s Spring Into Action Day. About 150 students in total participated on March 19.

“We are an office that encourages more partnerships and continuous service,” Kristina Snader, VISTA for Student and Community Engagement, said. “This is a great way to get people in. A lot of times it’s groups that don’t really do service, but it is a great opportunity to do it all together.”

Davis completed her project with members of Circle K International, a service organization with a focus on children. Her group was stationed at Jamestown Settlement for the day, assisting with an event involving reeanactors from all over the country and all different time periods.

“My group was at the Jamestown settlement helping with military through the ages,” Davis said. “They had 40 different groups come out. There were hundreds of them. It was the most insane thing I have ever seen.”

From the forty groups, students polled visitors on their favorite performances. Later, a viewer’s choice award was given to the best reenactors’ performance as part of the event.

“We did get a chance to go and talk to [the reenactors],” Davis said. “It was really cool because they are very knowledgable about their time periods.”

While Davis’s project was focused in Jamestown, other projects on Spring Into Action Day included a variety of local community partnerships in the greater Williamsburg area.

“Usually it’s a lot more of outdoor things that need to be done,” Snader said. “We have projects at Jamestown 4-H Center, Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, Century Art Gallery, Heritage Humane Society, and Williamsburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority.”

Through these local projects collaborating with student volunteers, the OCES office strives to engage students in service opportunities in the Williamsburg area.

“The community partners really want to get connected to William and Mary students because they know they have a lot of talent and skills to use,” Snader said. “Students often want to do things for community service, so they want to tap into that.”

Spring Into Action Day encourages involvement from all student groups on campus. Student volunteers can be from service organizations, religious organizations or just groups of friends or hallmates. Davis volunteered through her service organization, CKI.

“We always try to send out big groups, so we usually have about 15 to 20 people,” Davis said. “It’s good to get to know other members in the club, because there are like 60 members total.”

In order to make this day of service an annual event, the OCES has started implementing some orientation programs beforehand.

“We are really trying to take this farther than just one instance of service,” Davis said. “We started giving them orientation packets and asking project leaders to come to [a] little training where we talk about issues and reflection.”

Reflection is a process included in many OCES service projects as a method of engaging volunteers in active citizenship. The idea behind it is to connect service to larger issues, and for volunteers to really understand the work they are contributing to through service.

“Reflection helps people understand the importance of what you did and incorporate that into your life,” Davis said. “Those are pretty important things that we try to incorporate into our service.”

While Spring Into Action Day offers the William and Mary community an opportunity for involvement in the William and Mary community, it also opens multiple doors for students to get in touch with the greater Williamsburg community and to further that volunteer service engagement.

“We want students to maintain this contact and get involved outside of William and Mary and in the community,” Davis said.

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