Slippery Rock University held its first Community Service Day this past Friday, asking students to participate in volunteer opportunities, emergency preparedness sessions, and a service expo.
The goal of the event, which was put together by the Office of Community-Engaged Learning, was to send students into the community to different partners and have them assist with whatever their needs are.
“It’s meant to serve as a way for the community to see reciprocity and working together,” said Samantha Hauser, a graduate assistant for service leadership programming. “Typically, we see it here at Slippery Rock; there’s a disconnect between the community and the students. So we’re trying to foster a stronger relationship between those two.”
The event was a few years in the making, said Hauser, and was the idea of Laura Villers, the assistant director for the Office of Community-Engaged Service and Leadership.
“This is something [Villers] has wanted to do since she started here three years ago,” Hauser said. “And, for the past three years, we’ve really focused on ongoing programming and integrating into more classes and that sort of thing. We finally decided that this was the year we were going to pull it back a little bit and return to that one-time event planning.”
For the three-hour service shifts, approximately 1/3 of the spots were taken. Students who were unable to dedicate a full three hours of their time, whether because of class or other scheduling conflicts, were able to take part in drop in opportunities. These included helping pull weeds on Main Street, or aiding in the Macoskey Center or Our Angels Attic.
The emergency-preparedness component was in collaboration with facilities and Paul M. Novak, SRU’s emergency management administrator. Along with practice in safe drinking water, indoor air quality, and free CPR training, active shooter preparedness was offered to students, faculty, and members of the town’s community. The CPR training was filled the night before the event.
Hauser hopes that the event will spark other students’ interest in service and in the office that she works in.
“Just hitting that small percentage [of students] incites a big change on campus, and we’re hoping the culture of campus will change a little more towards that serving identity,” Hauser said. “This office helped me develop as a person and helped me realize the career path I want to go down. So I hold these events close to heart.”
The service is not just beneficial for the community partners, Hauser said, but for the students who help those needs, providing a learning opportunity.
“It’s important for students to get out into the community to learn more about the community,” Hauser said. “I think it’s also a great way to get hands on experience. There are a lot of majors and working with community partners is a way for them to get to meet organizations that exist out there that they may be able to go back to for more volunteer experience or internships.”
The office has already received a grant to hold next year’s Community Service Day.
“Even Slippery Rock, for as small of a town as it is, it has so many awesome opportunities and so many incredible people who are trying to make changes for the betterment of everyone,” Hauser said. “And, for students, I think it’s one way to get them out to realize there’s more out there.”