From raking leaves and pulling weeds to washing windows and trimming hedges, more than 830 Rowan students in 150 groups came together to participate in 94 service projects during the university’s Back to the Boro event, allowing student volunteers to lend a hand to residents in the Glassboro community.
Rowan’s Student Government Association held the annual service event on April 13 and for the second year in a row co-sponsored the event with the Office of Service Learning, Volunteerism & Community Engagement.
“It’s a great program to take the service straight to our neighbors,” said Andrew Perrone, assistant director of SLVCE. “Rowan students already do community service throughout the school year. However, this is the only time when we are given the opportunity to go directly to the residential neighbors.”
With a clear day and about 75 degree weather, the volunteers checked in and received their project assignments in Lot A before the opening ceremony at 11 a.m. Music played and refreshments were offered to help get students excited for the day ahead as they divided into their volunteer groups. Students were eager to get started, and by 11:30 a.m., most were on their way to their project locations.
Students could register individually, however many participants registered in groups. Some groups were just friends who wanted to participate together in the service event, while others came from on-campus clubs and organizations, including members of Greek life and athletic teams. Perrone said the smallest group of volunteers had three members, and the largest group was one of the fraternities, Sigma Pi, with more than 40 volunteers.
This year, there were more than 90 project sites spread throughout Glassboro, up to five miles away, for groups of students to be assigned. Perrone said this is nearly double the amount of project sites from last year.
Glassboro residents had the opportunity to submit project requests for student volunteers to complete. The only requirement to submit project requests was that the resident must live in Glassboro. Projects ranged from typical yard work and upkeep to cleaning out sheds and painting. Several groups of students could also be seen volunteering along various roads, picking up trash until 2 p.m. when the program ended, as well as at other places, such as the Boys & Girls Club.
“Our organization had multiple assignments,” said Joe Garrett, a brother of Sigma Pi fraternity and junior chemical engineering major. “Two of them, which required more people, were to clear an entire length of road of years of garbage buildup. It is important for the community to see how Rowan can positively influence the surrounding areas and residents, not just businesses. It’s important for Rowan students because it’s a great outlet for all students, who may or may not be a part of an organization that can plan their own events, to directly impact their community.”
For many students, Back to the Boro is a way to shine a positive light on the college community.
Director of Public Relations and Special Events for SGA Max Shatz, who ran the event this year, believes the program helps show that students have a positive effect on the town.
“It reminds both the university and residents of Glassboro that the university can be a great influence on the community,” Shatz said.
Students also believe it is a way for them to show the people who reside in Glassboro that they care and are here to not only go to school, but to be a part of the community.
“Living in a college town, it’s easy to forget you’re in an actual town,” said junior management information systems major and SGA member Mike Mcgowan. “Back to the Boro is a great way for us to show that we are here not just as college kids, but to also show appreciation for Glassboro and its residents that live here year-round. It’s not often you get to interact with the local residents in a positive way. We want to give back and foster that relationship between the students and residents.”
The program, sponsored in part by Landmark Americana Tap & Grill and ParkeBank, also acts as a way for students to help better their relationships within the local community.
“The program is a good way for people to meet their neighbors,” Perrone said. “Many Glassboro residents may not meet the students who live on their block, so the program helps build relationships and helps the residents make personal connections with their neighbors.”
Over the past five years, the program has grown, and SGA plans to expand with more projects and volunteers in the future.
Through Back to the Boro, students hope to continue bettering their relations with the Glassboro community, while giving back by helping residents do chores they need assistance with.
“As an organization, Sigma Pi feels that Glassboro and Rowan University should be more involved with each other to facilitate a great community,” Garrett said. “Back to the Boro is one of the biggest and best ways to give back to the community that our university resides in. A few people stopped to thank us for our efforts, and that made us feel great. The residents were particularly thankful, since our efforts directly impacted them. That’s why we do it.”
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