“By Sydney Weaver”
This year, for the First-Year Experience, every freshman was required to participate in one of four Service Saturdays. Unlike previous years where each First-Year Experience class was assigned to a service project as part of orientation, the freshmen this year had the opportunity to choose what they would like to do.
The goal of these Service Saturdays is to get students engaged in their new community in Billings and to give them the opportunity to see if they want to do similar volunteer work in
The first Service Saturday kicked off on Sept. 28 and focused on the environment.
The 41 students who attended broke into two teams and worked with the Montana Audubon and the Yellowstone River Parks Association. One team planted trees and made a new
trailhead. The second team hopped into canoes and pulled driftwood out of the river and worked on cleaning up trails.
The second Service Saturday was on Oct. 5, and involved 67 student volunteers. One group of volunteers went to St. John’s Christ Church to play bin- go with senior citizens and make Christmas cards, and the other group helped make sandwiches for the Salvation Army’s “Night on the Van,” where other volunteers go out to deliver sandwiches to homeless and low-income people.
There are two more Service Saturdays coming up.
The first is planned for Oct.
26 with a focus on agencies that serve children. There are 76 students signed up plus 10 student leaders.
The plan is for the group to break into smaller groups. Forty-five students will go to the Friendship House, which is a Christian school that serves children from kindergarten up to grade 12 and provides counseling for children, adults and families. This group of students will repaint the gym, which the Friendship House has been planning since July.
Another group will go to the Explorer’s Academy, which is a Headstart program that enhances the development of low-income children through education, health, nutrition and socialization. The plan is for the students to help with germ annihilation and other activities.
Previous First-Year Experience classes have helped out at the Explorer’s Academy, and the projects have seemed to be successful.
The final Service Saturday focuses on poverty and is planned for Nov. 23.
This project will wrap up the nationwide Hunger and Homelessness Week. Forty-three students and 10 student leaders will work with Tumbleweed, a program that provides safety and assistance to the community’s homeless youth, and Montana Rescue Mission, which provides emergency, temporary and rehabilitative care to people experiencing hunger and
homelessness. The plan is to organize the clothing and food pantries at both organizations.
This is the first year that the students have had a choice about what volunteer service they would like to attend. The goal is for all students to figure out what they enjoy doing to help their community.
Although these projects are only 2 1/2 hours, there is always an opportunity to do more to stay engaged in the Billings community.
There are many organizations within Billings that are always happy to have volunteers, whether the groups be small or large.