4 Ways to Volunteer at Kenyon
One of the best ways to adjust to living at Kenyon is to volunteer in the surrounding community. I became active with local nonprofit organizations while growing up in Knox County. Now that I am in college, I still make an effort to participate in the community as often as possible. I believe that when students familiarize themselves with rural Ohio through volunteering, they not only make meaningful connections with local residents but also engage in activities that allow them to venture off campus and de-stress in productive ways. In fact, Kenyon’s Community Programs Office encourages students to perform service work, offering different programs and informing students of local organizations in need of assistance. Here are some of the best ways I have found to volunteer at Kenyon.
1. Pre-Orientation Service Program
My introduction to Kenyon as a new student occurred through the Pre-Orientation Service Program. I moved in about a week earlier than the majority of first-years to meet some of my classmates, settle into campus and volunteer at a variety of local sites. Approximately 30 members of the Class of 2018, a handful of upperclassmen group leaders and I spent our mornings and afternoons exploring Knox County by clearing paths at the Brown Family Environmental Center, painting playground equipment and cleaning out the basement storage area at the Freedom Center in Mount Vernon. We separated into small groups and helped local nonprofits with any tasks they needed to complete. It was a great way to begin my time at Kenyon. I frequently see fellow service pre-o participants around campus, and I even met my roommate last year through the program!
2. Service Saturdays
Once a month, the Community Programs Office organizes a volunteer event called Service Saturdays. Through this activity, groups of students spend two hours on a Saturday assisting local organizations such as the nearby nursing home and the homeless shelter in Mount Vernon. I’ve participated in several of these service days, and it’s clear that the community members truly appreciate the help. Last year, I swept and mopped floors at the homeless shelter in preparation for its first night taking in residents. This September, I helped clean the bingo hall that a Knox County equine therapy center manages as a fundraiser for its programs. In both cases, the hosts for the site were glad to see Kenyon students participating in the community and thankful for the extra hands.
3. OAPP Knox County Mentor Program
The Off-Campus Activities Program in Psychology (OAPP) Mentor Program allows Kenyon students to travel once a week to an elementary school in Knox County to work one-on-one with a gifted first or fourth grade student. Over the course of the semester, students help their mentees choose and implement projects that they later present to a small group of family members and other participants. I volunteered for this program during my first semester at Kenyon, returning to my hometown of Centerburg to work with a fourth grader who happened to be the son of one of my high school teachers! He was a very intelligent student, and after discussing potential project topics, he decided to pursue a PowerPoint presentation on lions. Through our weekly research, he and I both learned a great deal of interesting facts on lions as well as several ways people can help this endangered big cat. Sometimes, it was a relief to go back to elementary school to learn about lions instead of focusing on sociological theories or microeconomics homework.
4. Knox County Nonprofit Organizations
If none of these opportunities interests you, the Community Programs Office has contact information for local nonprofit organizations that are in need of volunteers. One nonprofit that I love to volunteer at is the Knox County Animal Shelter. The shelter frequently needs people to walk dogs, as they try to take each one out of its kennel at least once a day. Taking an adorable dog for a long walk along the nearby bike path is a refreshing way for both of us to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.
If these opportunities don’t seem to fit exactly what you want, there are tons of other ways to get involved in the Knox County community while at Kenyon. For instance, the Archon Society is a co-ed service social fraternity that requires its members to engage in at least 18 hours of community service each semester. Several of my friends, including some people I met at service pre-o, have joined this society and love it. Of course, the Archons aren’t the only students on campus who volunteer. Though I do not belong to the society, I still remain active in the community as much as possible. Venturing out of the Kenyon bubble to perform service work is always a rewarding break from classes and assignments, making it something to look forward to throughout the week.