How Golden Bears give back
WVU Tech graduates are known for their capability and determination. They’re also known for their spirit of giving, and that spirit is something WVU Tech students are encouraged to grow from day one.
This week, hundreds of new students attended the university’s New Student Orientation. They learned about campus resources, met fellow students and explored their new community. A major component of the NSO program at Tech is community service, so new students also spent an entire day giving back.
The Golden Bears Give Back day of service saw 200 students participate in eight projects in Beckley and the surrounding area. Despite the day’s rainy weather, students worked on public community art projects, picked up litter along roadways in the Beckley area and helped nonprofit groups organize, paint and clean.
Scotty Stone, an AmeriCorps VISTA at WVU Tech, organized the events.
"We're having students go all over Beckley and the Raleigh County area to do some service so that they can get used to the area and maybe feel like they have some kind of stake in it,” he said. “When a student gives back to the community, they also feel that they are part of that community. We want the students to be able to have that."
At the Beckley Presbyterian Church near campus, freshman commuter student Breanna Mills spent the day painting walls and furniture in a nursery. The Beckley native will commute to campus as she earns her Health Services Administration degree, and said she’s glad to see students give back in her hometown.
"This benefits the community because it provides a new environment and new opportunities for the kids that go here," she said. "It's important to give back. Our future is grown upon the next generation, so it’s nice to see the kindness and the outpouring of love that we can give back to the community."
Across town, business management major Dominic Re spent his time walking along Raleigh Ridge in a makeshift poncho. Even in the rain, he was glad to spend his time removing litter from the roadway. Re grew up in Fayetteville, West Virginia, and said that it was important to take pride in the environment.
"We're out here cleaning up along the road for the Piney Creek Watershed. We're picking up trash and getting the place cleaned up because it shows people that we care about how West Virginia looks. We want to keep it beautiful and help other people out along the way,” he said.
Volunteer students even got to get creative during the day’s events. Working with Beckley Events, a group of students spent time between bouts of rain to help finish the large mural project near the YMCA building.
Christine Kinder is a Raleigh County Extension agent for community development who works for West Virginia State University and the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. She oversees the mural project, which began back in April. She said that public community arts projects are a way to get students interested in the community and its future.
"I know that when the students drive by they are excited because they can say 'I made that,' and it really gives them a sense of pride. It gets them excited at a young age about what's possible here. And if they can see that something like that can happen here, then maybe they’ll come up with other creative ways to make our city better," she said.
Jill Moorefield, director of Beckley Events, was also on hand for the project.
"They get to meet each other and some members of the community this way,” she said. “That experience makes them feel like they're more invested in the community by being a part of these projects. And we certainly appreciate the help."
All told, Tech students and staff logged nearly 800 hours of community service during the day’s activities. Those hours will count toward the University’s Million Hour Match program, where WVU system students and employees aim to complete one million hours of service by 2020.
WVU Tech students worked with One Voice, Beckley Area Events, the Beckley Presbyterian Church, Mountain State Centers for Independent Living, the Boy Scouts of America and the Piney Creek Watershed Association.
For Stone, the day was a win for the community and a powerful welcome for new students.
"The orientation experience is all about getting students to feel like the college is home for them, so in order to do that, they need to feel that the city is their home, too. Our community partners have been absolutely in love with our students. They'll play a big part in making these students feel at home," he said.
Check out more photos from the day's activities on Flickr: