This past Sunday, Rowan’s Office of Volunteerism, Community Engagement and Commuter Services (VCECS) and Student Government Association (SGA) co-hosted the annual “Back to the Boro” event, which was temporarily on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Perrone, the assistant director of the Office of VCECS, said that although they had to alter or omit some of the normal activities involved with “Back to the Boro,” the opportunity to have the event after not being able to last year was encouraging and “it was great to do something.”
“Back to the Boro,” which started nine years ago (this was the eighth one), is typically held toward the end of the spring semester “to thank the citizens of Glassboro for their continual support of Rowan and our students,” according to the “Back to the Boro” page on Rowan’s website. During the event, student organizations and faculty members volunteer to help clean up public areas and private properties around town that have requested assistance with a variety of tasks. These may include raking leaves, trimming overgrown shrubs, laying mulch, weeding and other tasks that would otherwise be daunting without help.
Due to COVID-19 considerations, volunteers this year were only able to help out in public areas and not at residential homes. Additionally, the check-in process was expedited to prevent the large gathering that normally occurs before setting out to work. There was also a lack of past years’ DJ and barbecue.
Despite the limitations placed on volunteers to make for a safe experience all around, the event’s lasting impact made for an abundance of clean-up opportunities both on Rowan’s campus and around Glassboro.
Rowan Environmental Action League (REAL) was even invited back to one of its 2019 locations, the Glassboro Public Library, to help weed, mulch and trim a large tree to spruce up the library’s front garden after a long winter.
“[The library gardeners] said our group members were hard-working and considerate and had conversations with them,” said Alexa Aulicino, outgoing president of REAL and a senior mechanical engineering student. She also mentioned how happy the gardeners were that someone was tall enough on the REAL team to reach the upper branches of the tree.
As a soon-to-be graduate, Aulicino also cherished the connections with the Glassboro community that “Back to the Boro” allowed, and plans to make the same types of connections with her community as she moves forward in life.
In the last “Back to the Boro” before COVID-19 hit, the Office of VCECS reported more than 1,600 registered volunteers. This year, Perrone reported about 250 volunteers between 23 teams. While this number is much smaller than in years past, the event was a success in Perrone’s eyes.
Not only was the number of volunteers comparatively larger than other campus events this year, everyone who registered and attended was there because they wanted to be. During a typical year, students and faculty attend “Back to the Boro” with the incentive of SGA service hours, a requirement of all SGA-charted organizations. However, SGA nixxed the service requirement this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, which meant event attendance was purely voluntary.
“No one was out there because they needed to be [for service hours],” Perrone said.
Looking toward “Back to the Boro” 2022, Perrone is confident next year will be as great of a success as this year; even with limited volunteers and restrictive measures to keep everyone safe, this year’s event garnered the commitment, participation and excitement that makes it one of Rowan’s biggest events every year, Perrone said.
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