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Hobart and William Smith Colleges celebrating 30 years of service

This article is re-published here with permission from the Finger Lakes Times.

HWS Community Service

Hobart and William Smith Colleges will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Days of Service this spring.

For three decades, HWS’ Days of Service have brought volunteers from campus and the surrounding area together with the common purpose of giving back to the greater Geneva community.

“The collective efforts of students, faculty, staff and our community partners over the past 30 years has not only made an impact on the greater Geneva community, it has shaped a culture of civic engagement and stewardship on our campus,” President Mark Gearan said in a press release.

Days of Service was founded in 1994 by former staff members Richard Guarasci, Lara Chatel-Turbide, and Lt. Col. John Norvell.

According to HWS, the idea was sparked during a trip led by Guarasci and Chatel-Turbide to a City Year Day of Service event in Boston. On the return journey, the group agreed to launch a similar initiative on campus.

“Students were really excited, and the event has stuck ever since,” said Hobart Associate Dean David Mapstone, who began working for HWS in 1994.

Mapstone remembers two catalyzing events leading to the Days of Service initiative.

“It spoke to Generation X and how they wanted to participate in democracy and have their voice heard,” he said. “They wanted to get their hands dirty. Additionally, Guarasci and Hobart and William Smith were finding ways to incorporate service-learning into the curriculum.”

HWS defines service learning as a teaching and learning methodology that fosters civic responsibility and applies classroom learning through meaningful service to the community.

In April 1994, an article titled “Celebrate Service, Celebrate Geneva… Day of Giving,” ran in the HWS student newspaper The Herald, encouraging students to sign up for the inaugural event.

“By participating in the day of service, you will make a difference in your own life and in the life of our city,” the article reads. “You will send a message of hope. Your energy, idealism and commitment will move toward what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned as ‘the beloved community.’”
HWS said Days of Service has evolved through the sustained efforts of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning and the HWS Days of Service club, expanding to multiple days each year. Additionally, the first Day of Service of the academic year is hosted during Orientation, giving every first-year student the opportunity to participate at the beginning of their college experience.

This year’s event takes place April 20, and co-chairs of the Days of Service club are juniors Holly McCarty and Caroline Ruffner. They said they are thrilled to be on campus during the 30-year anniversary and hope to share the sense of purpose they’ve both felt and witnessed in their peers by engaging in acts of service.

“This is an amazing time to be on campus because the anniversary offers students the opportunity to participate in a tradition that HWS holds so dear,” McCarty said.

“I love when people ask to return to a site that they’ve volunteered at before because they had such a positive experience,” added Ruffner. “I’ve also loved working with CCESL and community members to connect HWS to the Geneva community.”

Sue Adams, parish administrator at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Genesee Street in Geneva, has hosted Days of Service volunteers at her church all 30 years.

“We’re a downtown parish and every nook and cranny is used for the betterment of our community,” she said. “When people volunteer, it makes our programs accessible to children in Geneva. Having volunteers is an enormous gift. I don’t think we could have done all that we’ve done in the last 30 years without knowing that we had the help of HWS students a couple of times a year.”

Community partner Jackie Augustine has participated in Days of Service as a former student, former Geneva city councilor, and through organizations including Seneca7 and BluePrint Geneva.

“Day of Service is a learning experience for everyone involved,” she said. “The students get to see some of the work going on around them, and the agency members learn about the things that draw students off campus and inform their commitment to service. Some of the students we met during Day of Service went on to become active volunteers, and sometimes staff, down the road”

McCarty and Ruffner said their goal for this anniversary year is to increase campus participation. They are encouraging staff and faculty to join, as well as groups, including athletic teams, Greek organizations and student clubs.

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