A Fresh start

About a month into the new school year for Lycoming College, the school’s newest students are busy integrating themselves into the Williamsport community by serving it.

Andrew Kilpatrick, the college’s freshman dean, explained that in order to introduce the freshman to the community, the school requires them to perform a community service project.

“We require all freshman to complete a community service project during the fall semester of their freshman year,” Kilpatrick said.

“It reminds them as educated citizens, they are living in a culture, environment, community and it’s important to find what the needs are in the community,” Kilpatrick later added on the importance of the projects.

But the service projects not only help the students bond with the community, but as a class. Kilpatrick said that, for the most part, members of the freshman class are strangers to one another so they are able to meet and interact together.

“The freshman are new to the college but also they’re new to one another so it’s an opportunity to meet as a class,” he said.

Students choose their service project off of a pre-approved list from the college to participate in. This year’s projects include volunteering at the Little League World Series, cleaning up Loyalsock Trail and fixing fences at Sunny Brook Meadows.

Kilpatrick said this early exposure to community service “plants the seed” of the importance of giving back to the community, which follows the students for the rest of their time at Lycoming.

He added that upon completion of their freshman requirement many make their way to the college’s community service office to further serve.

“It doesn’t have to be a one-and-done (experience),” Kilpatrick said.

Many professors will require students in a variety of courses to participate in a service project, and in some instances, several groups of the college have served at the same time with an organization.

“It’s just neat to see Lycoming College spreading out in the community as we attempt to make a difference in the community,” Kilpatrick said.

The experience also can set the students a part from other applicants when looking at their next step after graduation – either graduate courses or a career. But Kilpatrick noted that after completing the projects, students “get it.”

“I think they’re feeling a connection to this community and they’re getting why we do this,” he said.

And with an average of about 380 freshman coming in each year, Kilpatrick said the desired impact is being made.

“I think it has made a huge impact,” he said. “What’s special is when someone comes back from an event and says, ‘I enjoyed that.'”