Trinity exposes first years to community service

Even though first-year students may still be learning the ins and outs of Trinity by the time their second weekend on campus rolls around, they should consider taking a day to explore the San Antonio community and all it has to offer by meeting at the Witt Center to participate in the Welcome Week service excursions beginning tomorrows.

Organized by Campus and Community Involvement, Welcome Week service excursions are peer-led with volunteer teams traveling on VIA, San Antonio’s local bus system, to different service projects around San Antonio, culminating with a reflection dinner at 5 p.m. in the Fiesta Room in the west wing of the Coates University Center.

Edwin Blanton, coordinator for community service and engagement, said that spots for the excursions usually fill up quickly so students should sign up as soon as possible.

“Typically, we actually fill up or come very close to filling up because most sites can only absorb about 15 volunteers. There’s always some drop off where students might realize they have to go home that weekend, or they might oversleep or get sick or something like that. Roughly 40 to 50 will be there on that day,” Blanton said.

Students will be able to choose from four different service projects to participate in. Students planning on assisting with Furniture for a Cause will need to meet at the Witt Center at 7:30 a.m. Funds from Furniture for a Cause support homeless outreach in San Antonio, and students working with this organization will be assembling, cleaning and arranging furniture.

Green Spaces Alliance volunteers will be mulching, weeding and planting at a community garden on the east side of San Antonio. Students should meet at the Witt Center at 8 a.m.

Those interested in visiting the Children’s Shelter to play games and do arts and crafts projects with young children and toddlers also need to meet at the Witt Center at 8 a.m.

Finally, students serving with Christian Assistance Ministry need to meet at the Witt Center at 8:30 a.m.
Blanton believes the service excursions serve the dual purpose of orienting new students to their new city while serving those in need.

“It’s a good way for them to learn about their new community while also participating in service. For instance, public transportation can be very scary if you’ve never taken it before and you go on your own, but if you go with someone that’s used it before and go with a small group of 10 or 15 then it’s a lot easier to understand,” Blanton said.

Because the four projects are so different from each other, each group will have their own unique service experience.

“These are intentionally in different parts of the city, so none of those four excursions are even close to one another.

That way a student can see part of the east side, the west side, north, south; they can see a lot of that,” Blanton said.
Ben Whitehead, a sophomore manning the registration table for the service excursions on move-in day, enjoyed the enthusiasm the new first years exhibited toward this service opportunity.

“We’ve had a number of students come up who seem really excited to perform service and whatnot,” Whitehead said. “You get to go out in the city and really experience the different agencies around that are performing service for the different populations in the community, so it really gets you to burst that Trinity bubble right in your first couple of weeks. You get used to going out in the city, using the bus system and get to know some good friends too.”

Whitehead also mentioned how the service excursions can appeal to returning students.

“Returning students get a chance to really start acting as the leaders for these service groups and just really help transition those first years into that college mindset of going out and performing community service,” Whitehead said.

Sophomore Hannah Coley agreed, saying that it is a good outlet to create new friendships.

“It’s just a great way to get involved in the San Antonio community and kind of see and be exposed to what else is out there outside of Trinity, and it’s a great way to meet new peers,” Coley said.

At the end of the day, students who participated in the service excursions are required to attend dinner to reflect on their experience.

“It’s an interactive dinner where students actually rotate so that they will actually have dinner with about 15 different people. You’re always at a table of six, so you’ll have one course and then move. It’s a good way where you can share a meal with so many people, but you’ll always be at just a table that only seats six,” Blanton said.

The dinner will include a panel of community members who are active in service who will speak on what drives them to serve. Members of the panel include someone from Cat Alliance Trinity to show how to serve without having to leave campus. Other panelists are Sarah Cullinan, a Trinity alumna who now works at City Year, and Jason Cox from Marrow Match, an organization he started a number of years ago because as a kid he was saved thanks to a bone marrow donation.

Blanton believes that Trinity and volunteering go hand in hand, and the Welcome Week service excursions are a great way to introduce new Trinity students to that concept.

“I really hope that students realize that while at Trinity volunteering and being part of a community is very possible because there are so many opportunities,” Blanton said. “Hopefully, students will go back to the site, or if they decide it’s not for them then they know there are a lot of opportunities they can tap into.”