Designing and 3D Printing a Toy set for Nationwide Children’s Hospital

My STEP project involved designing a toy set on SOLIDWORKS and 3D printing it in a material that would be safe yet durable for children. The toy set was donated to the Child Care Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

This project helped me to truly realize what I would like to do with my life and how I can help others while doing what I love. When I first decided to pursue this project, I thought about how it fit the criteria for a STEP project in service: it would give me a chance to learn more about SOLIDWORKS and I would be able to help those at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. As I laid out the parts to design and began my project, I immediately became absorbed in my project and would work on a part for hours at a time, unknowing how much time had passed since I began that day. Once all parts were designed and printed, I looked at each part in awe because I took an idea in my mind and transformed it into a tangible object. Not only did an idea become real, but it also took the perfect form that I had imagined initially. I wanted to do more than just make pieces for kids: I wanted it to be interactive for them, and let them build the toys. To do this, I designed and printed each building as panels that slid together as seen below with my skyscraper (refer to attached pictures).

When I took the finished parts and constructed the final play set, I was beyond thrill. Everything fit and worked together flawlessly. At this point, I realized that I have the potential to turn an idea into something tangible and help those in need.

The idea to dedicate my project to the kids at Nationwide Children’s Hospital stemmed from my work with BuckeyeThon throughout my college life. As I became more involved with BuckeyeThon, I learned how life can be incredibly difficult, especially for those who do not deserve it. While I may not be able to take away the pain and suffering some kids are forced to endure, I realized that I could at least help them be kids and let them play with toys like I used to. But, it wasn’t until I donated the toys that I could see the impact I was having. The employees at Nationwide Children’s Hospital that officially accepted the donation could not stop thanking me and were very excited to let the kids play with the toy set. At this time, I realized that I wasn’t just helping the kids, but everyone they interacted with on a daily basis as well. While I thought I was helping a select group of people, I was really helping so many more people than I could realize, and now I am more excited that before to see how far and wide I can have an impact and help those in need.

Specifically, the employees at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, my cohort leader, and the machine shop manager in the Department of Mechanical Engineering had a lasting impact on me. When it came to donating the toys at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the employees were so flexible with me when it came to arranging at day and time to meet. They could not stop thanking me and told me how excited they were to put the toys to good use. In the end, they helped me to see the impact I was having on countless others, and the idea that I could be helping so many more people than I originally thought encouraged me; In the future, I plan to give back to children in need, and I will be making a lasting impact, regardless of whether I see it immediately or not.

My cohort leader, Annie Abell, had nothing short of a positive impact on me. She always supported my project since its inception, and brainstormed with me so we could make it the best it could be. Even when time was beginning to wind down on the project and there was still more I planned to do, she offered valuable advice and helped me see how to expedite the remaining parts of the project. In the end, Annie helped me realize and how to go about completing a project like this and how critical it is to plan everything out before acting. As an engineering student, I know these skills and ideas will be important to my future, and I look forward to using everything she taught me when I take on larger projects.

Kevin Wolf, the machine shop manager in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Ohio State was a connection I developed in the first weeks of the project and was critical when it came to the toy designing process. Originally, Annie recommended that I talk to him about my toy designs and print them with him. This proved to be nothing but a great idea. I began prototyping all my toys and would send them to Kevin once they were completed. He would offer me advice and help me optimize my toys for usability while remaining within my budget. Some toys took much time to develop their final prototypes, but he remained patient with me and not only helped me to learn from my mistakes, but also taught me critical lessons regarding designing and machining objects, regardless of their ultimate destination.

The experience I had with my STEP project is valuable to my life because it showed me how I can take on something I don’t know very well and turn a concept into reality. It also showed me that whenever I pursue philanthropic work or any work in the future, countless other people that aren’t the benefiters I first thought of can be helped by my endeavors. In the end, I can have a lasting impact that goes beyond what I could have initially imagined, and I am excited to see how all my future work unfolds.


Hayley and Nemo’s STEP Adventure

“How firm thy friendship”

Name: Hayley Curran (and Nemo)

Type of Project: Service-Learning and Community Service

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

Through STEP, I have had the wonderful opportunity to rescue a miniature horse and train him to provide therapy to individuals in nursing homes, schools, and healthcare settings.  Nemo and I have been working hard to grow from an abused, fearful and distrustful miniature horse, to learning how to trust humans again, demonstrated by his willingness to wear tiny tennis shoes, not being afraid of scary noises, spaces, or people, and most importantly, visiting and connecting with people in need.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Working with Nemo has completely transformed my perspective and approach to every conversation, meeting, or new situation. I have learned that, in order to gain trust and respect, I must be prepared to give every ounce of patience, kindness, and understanding – even if, on the surface, the individual may not be the most gracious or deserving.

For instance, training Nemo has helped me realize the importance of taking the time to see beyond the surface behavior, something which has given me a new perspective on what it means to work in the healthcare field. Whatever situation I encounter, whatever obstacles I will face, I know that this experience working with Nemo has given me the tools necessary to think outside the box and adapt my approach to successfully work through challenging situations. By taking the time to slow down and quietly evaluate, I know that great strides can be achieved.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

Working with such a severely abused and neglected rescue horse has taught me that everyone has a story, and everyone has a chance at a new spin on life. Training Nemo to become a normal horse – not even a therapy horse – was an uphill battle, and absolutely challenged my ability to persevere. There were days that I was so frustrated I cried. I went back into the house completely discouraged. It would have been so much easier to give up, but I knew I would be letting not only myself down, but also Nemo as well.  My ability as a trainer and as a person were tested over and over for months, but, slowly, I started seeing small improvements. Maybe Nemo wouldn’t jump away when I walked to one side of him. Or when he would let me touch his face without trying to run. Or when I could walk him without him rearing up in protest. All very small steps, but all so meaningful to our journey. I was asked – “Why don’t you just get a new horse? Or one who is trained? Or at least not a rescue who was beaten over the head and left to rot alone in a barren barn?”

Well, because all the while I believed in Nemo and his story and our journey.  As a future healthcare professional, and as a human being, it is so important to take a step back from deadlines, overhead pressure, and extenuating circumstances in order to place value and invest in someone’s journey.

Together, Nemo and I persevered. It was not easy for either of us, and we both faced new challenges every day while working to heal old scars. Recovering from the trauma has taken time, patience, and understanding, and has taught me how to be creative and to think outside of the box to figure out new solutions to try when what I was trying didn’t work.

The progress Nemo has made within the last year is remarkable. Horses are prey animals, and their natural instinct is fight and flight. The trauma he endured in his short life is heartbreaking, leaving him terrified of all humans and most everyday situations. To see where he is now, and know that I have been instrumental in teaching him to open his heart and trust is one of my proudest achievements.  Just today, Nemo pulled the scary trashcan up the gravel driveway without balking. In fact, he barely batted an eye, and took it in stride, and pulled that trashcan up the winding driveway like that’s what we have been doing every day for the last year. Having something loud and jostling tied to him is the horse equivalent of having a mountain lion attacking him. I was so proud of him for all of his hard work and most of all, it has taught me that if you don’t give up on them, they won’t give up on you, either.


  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

Working with Nemo has been so valuable to my life not only as a student, but also as a more compassionate and understanding healthcare professional and human being.  Although becoming a “mom” to a 250 pound little creature with no manners and a whole lot of distrust for humans with a full course load and part time job sounded insane, it has been so rewarding to pursue my passion hands-on. As a student it is often difficult to put the course work into practice, and the opportunity to combine my love for animals with desire to make an impact in healthcare and improving mental health has been unbelievably rewarding. Although waking up at 4:30 every morning to care for Nemo, driving over an hour to school, completing 18 credit hours and 15+ hours of work only to rush home from college every evening to work with him before it got too dark outside and then going in to do homework was less than ideal, I never regretted my decision to have the chance to impact not only Nemo’s life, but those individuals we will be helping in our future visits as well.

As a future healthcare professional, my work with Nemo has helped my take a step back and be patient, realizing that everyone has a story and a past, and putting the patient’s needs above a deadline or my personal motivation. Nemo was sold to me as a loving backyard pet, but had actually been abused, and was afraid to be around humans. Understanding this, and learning how to adapt my approach to better suit Nemo has been transformational. It is really about putting yourself to the side and working to rehabilitate the patient.

This is not something that could have been taught in a classroom, and, I imagine, takes a lot of time for people working in people-centered fields to realize. Without Nemo, or STEP, I would not have understood the impact or gravity of working together to complete a seemingly impossible goal. I have realized what it means to become a cohesive team, as I have officially had one of the most difficult teammates ever! With Nemo, I have been taught how to be patient and not give up, and have only confirmed that the harder you work for something, the greater you feel when you achieve it. Learning that the trials and tribulations I experienced with Nemo early on will help me with all future endeavors, roadblocks, and situations, and I will be forever grateful to Ohio State for giving me this opportunity.

So, here’s to welcoming not only the journey, but also the challenge. I have learned that it makes victory that much sweeter.


Working on matching braids and posing :)


Please enjoy a few snapshots of our training process! Training any therapy animal is a very long and detailed process. Because Nemo was abused and neglected, this process took a little longer than originally anticipated in order to ensure the comfort and safety of Nemo, as well as provide patients the best experience possible. We are launching a Facebook and Instagram page this week (@NemotheTherapyMini) and will be doing visits this summer and fall and hope to make new friends at the STEP Expo!!! Thank you for reading about our journey — we are both so grateful for STEP and Ohio State!

Training obstacles    "When one door closes..."   Conquering obstacles together   Training help from my little sister, Alayna! It was important for Nemo to get used to ALL people. Also, it might not look like a big thing, but Nemo holding still with a waving hand near his face was a HUGE milestone!

Sometimes scary things can fly around and land our head...   Therapy horses must be ready for cuddles!   Nemo was not amused waking up as a newly-minted gelding...   We bought/built a horse trailer! Nemo is practicing walking in and out of his special mini-sized stall

Vogue   Working on cuddles !      Nemo loved dressing up for Halloween!!!!      Therapy horse kisses!   Indoor training exercises!! Casual Sunday afternoon, right?    "Oh my God there is a horse in my kitchen!!!!" - my mom    Front porch chillin'


Service Learning: Theater Arts Group & CNIS

My STEP project was designed to support the theater program at Columbus North International High School. Their theater program was cut, and as a means of service, OSU students have been facilitating a program that promotes mentor-ship through theater. Specifically, I built multi-functional set pieces for the program while teaching students technical skills such as using standard tools.

While completing my project, I gained perspective on what opportunities I had access to, that many people do not. First, I had arts programs available to me throughout my life. Second, my family was able to teach my skills like how to use a drill, build things in a structurally sound way, and generally be comfortable with a variety of household skills. Many of the students I worked with did not have access to arts programs, didn’t know how to use a drill, or open a can of paint. On a more broad level, I also had the skills to reach out to administrators at CNIS for permissions for my project, where as many of the students at the school had never interacted with administrators or staff outside of their direct teachers.

My STEP project occurred in two phases. The first was a building phase, and the second was a painting and teaching phase. During the first part of my project, I had to go to a number of hardware and supply stores for materials to build the set. I had two distinctly different experiences during this part. The first time I went shopping, I went to a store a little farther from home, which advertised a wide variety of tools that I would need for my project. I explained what I was doing to the staff there, and they set me up with a representative who was excited to speak with me regarding my project, look at my designs, and walk me through many of the benefits of each type of tool. He explained how some tools would be functionally better, and some would be easier for me to use and walked me through several models to find the most comfortable fit.

For all of my supply outings, I went with my dad, as I couldn’t carry most of the lumber on my own, and it would speed up the process. Where the first outing representatives spoke to me, the second time, they only spoke with my dad. Store representatives seemed to think he would have a better understanding of what would work, even though it was my project. Though this was not an initial issue I thought I would face, it was still an interesting perspective on how women are still not seen as capable or “handy.”

In the second part, I worked with students at CNIS to finish the set for their play, Among Friends and Clutter. It was interesting which students were more helpful. The set aspect was new this year, but the theater component is approximately three years old. Students who were seniors felt they could skip out and were notable less reliable in showing up to rehearsals. As a result, many freshman were cast in leading roles, and I placed a freshman as student stage manager because he was much more responsible and committed to the show. This was a surprise to me, because in my high school programs, the level of responsibility and expectations went up as you got older, and it was a reality check to remember that not all schools and programs have that standard.

This was transformative for me on a personal level. Theater has never been a career goal, but is has been a large part of my life. First, it was shocking to me what design skills and stru ctural ideas I had picked up just from watching people build over the years. I was able to recreate many set pieces using my own analysis without seeing the original designs for the pieces that I used for inspiration. Additionally, I didn’t realize to what extent my skills were not universal, and it was important to me to teach as many of those skills to the students as I could. Long term, I plan on going into nonprofit management. While it may not be in the arts, I plan on taking this learning experience to the workplace.

Grand Canyon Service Learning

Name: Lucy Daugherty

Type of Project: Service Learning and Community Service


  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

As a group, we embarked on this journey to step outside of our comfort zones and to help people along the way.  We started at Palatki Heritage Site, which is an archeological site that inhabits cliff dwellings and ancient pictographs.  We worked with the volunteers there to preserve the area in order to keep the history rich in culture.  We worked on their trails keeping them walkable and in good shape in order to keep people from veering off trails.  We also volunteered at Yavapai food council where we packed weekend food bags for kids who might not have the opportunity to eat over the weekend while they are at home.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

This trip helped me grow in a number of different ways.  First of all, the service that we did was so appreciated by the people we were helping, making it so worth it.  The volunteers who lived at the Heritage Site could not thank us enough for the three or four days that we were there to help them.  Our help allowed them to focus on other parts of the heritage site and allowed them more time to give tours to people who were interested in learning more about the way the Native Americans lived back then.  At Yavapai Food Council, one lady started crying because she was so moved that our group was interested in helping out because she once lived in a home where food was hard to come by.  Seeing people’s reactions to our volunteer work made me realize how important it is to help people whenever you can.  It may not mean so much to you, but it will mean a great deal to the people you are helping.

This trip made me realize that life is not all about yourself, it is about helping people whenever you can.  It is about giving back where and when you can.  It is about meeting new people and learning from their experiences or just learning from their outlook on life.  Life is about stepping out of your comfort zones in order to gain more experience, which is exactly what I did.


  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

As I previously mentioned, one of the most inspiring and worthwhile parts of the trip was the reaction to our service.  I did not expect them to be so heart warmed by our service, but that just shows that not enough people volunteer to help them out.  This really stuck with me and has encouraged me to volunteer whenever I can.  The world needs more people who will sacrifice their time to better another organization or community.

One of the hardest parts of that trip was hiking six miles out of the Grand Canyon starting at two o’clock in the morning.  This was actually the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and it clearly showed.  I was the slowest in my group, so our group leaders encouraged me to go in the front because we are only as fast as our slowest member.  This made me believe in the power of teamwork and encouragement.  Everyone in my group was encouraging each other, not getting mad when people asked for breaks, and all in all were the reason that I was able to make it to the top of that gruesome hike.  I will never forget their support and the rejoice we had at the end, they made me realize that I can do anything I put my mind to.

Lastly, what affected me the most was one girl in my group who was so similar to me that we connected from the start.  She realized from something I had said in the big group that I had anxiety, just like her.  She pulled me aside and we had gotten to talking about it on a deep, personal level.  She is two years younger than me but inspires me to this day.  I am incredibly grateful that I met her, as she has taught me so much about life, compassion and the importance of service and kindness.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.


Transformation and change is valuable in my life because I am the type of person that is just content with the same old, same old.  I am terrified of planes, I do not like to be in a group of people that I do not know, and I do not like to travel away from home.  All three of those things were included in my week-long trip through Buck-I-SERV, and I am so grateful they were.  I learned so much and met so many people along the way that made it all worthwhile.  As always, I was more shy towards the beginning.  However, towards the middle and end of the week, I was having a really good time and making friends with everyone on the trip.

I am confident that this trip will help me in my future because it allowed me to branch out, make new friends, and be put out of my comfort zone.  I was displaced from comfort so much during that trip. But, I came out on top.  I made it out alive, and I had a great time.  Without that experience, I may have had a negative outlook on social interactions forever.  I am happy that I did this because it gives me a positive future to look forward to knowing I can handle these situations. 

Greenville Humane Society

Yiannis Sotiropoulos


My STEP Project allowed me to lead a group of student volunteers on a Buck-I-SERV trip to Greenville Humane Society. With the entire group’s effort, we had the privilege of caring for the animals staying at the Humane Society and even got to star in a commercial promoting the Humane Society.

Going into this Buck-I-SERV trip, I had already been on several different service trips with some even occurring in places across the globe. However, upon undergoing my journey to South Carolina, I was quickly in for a surprise about the difficulties that leading a group would hold. Not only was I responsible for those going on this trip with me but I also was the driver for our long excursion down to South Carolina. Despite these newfound challenges, I pressed on to inspire my group to continue to push themselves to learn more about Animal Rights in different and constructive ways. I’m very glad that I was able to take on the role of a leader and thrive off of the feedback from every group member.

The initial event that tipped me off about the weight of responsibility that I would bear was the 8-hour drive in a large van down to South Carolina. As someone who lives out-of-state, long drives weren’t foreign to me. Although, motivating the group towards opening up took several hours of boring stories and a few badly sung songs all from myself. Soon after the ice was broken several conversations were happening at the same time and a feeling of familiarity fell over the group. I believe that by undertaking this responsibility I was control over not only how fast we got there but also the safety of the group in general. In this way, I reached a new understanding of what being a leader really means and understood that even tasks that may seem tedious actually greatly impact the group.

Another crucial unexpected aspect of the trip that had to be overcome was how to spend down time together as a group. I soon learned that it’s tricky to find activities that a diverse group of individuals would be entertained by. After brainstorming potential exciting activities, everyone was able to agree to my suggestion of seeing a movie at a nearby theatre. While watching the movie I pondered other ways to keep everyone engaged and having a meaningful time, so I introduced a card game named Palace. Quickly Palace filled any free time we had for the remainder of the week as the obsession for winning and bragging rights kicked in. It’s amazing to me how such a simple game can create a bond between the group and allow everyone to express themselves. I also felt the weight of responsibility through this from finding an activity that would entertain everyone in the group without anyone being left out.

The final test that I found myself combating as a trip leader was allowing the group to reflect on the impact that they made on Greenville Humane Society. Initially, a few group members didn’t feel that we were being as beneficial as possible or that they had different expectations for the trip entirely. Slowly though team building from volunteering as well as games we would play in our free time allowed for a group dynamic to form. I was able to help several members realize that we weren’t just impacting the pets in the Humane Society but also the workers who would be able to spend more time providing care for the animals. Finally, we were able to have group discussion in which everyone shared how they thought they having an impact even the skeptics realized the mark we were leaving. Additionally, within days puppies that we had once bathed and walked were even adopted in front of our eyes! It was amazing how the accumulation of the work that we put in allowed these animals to find loving homes.

Discovering more about leadership and how to motivate a group really has inspired me to reflect more upon myself. This type of introspective thinking was quickly applied to other activities in my life whenever I had the free time to think. From showering to running, the more activities that I’m able to spend reflecting, the more I appreciate the choices that I make. I also found that advice that I shared with my group members was also applicable to my own experience. One big piece of advise that I now follow myself is that actions have a big impact even if they aren’t impacting yourself directly, so it’s important to be careful and generous with them. Another lesson that I took with me is that leading can definitely be a challenge, however by taking on a larger role I was able to hone neglected skills and bring together a group of strangers for a meaningful purpose. Moving forward I can use these newfound skills to my advantage while pursuing my career in Veterinary Medicine; first by establishing a network and bond with my classmates and later to push each other to become the best versions of ourselves possible. My Greenville trip will always be a part of me and I know that I’m different for having been a part of it.


FCCS Friendship Mentoring Program

For my STEP project, I participated in the Friendship Mentoring Program through Franklin County Children Services, where I acted as a mentor for a child involved in the foster care system. Through the program, I developed a lasting relationship with my mentee by providing her with various fun and new experiences.

I chose this project in particular as a means to explore my desire to eventually work with Franklin County Children Services; it seemed the perfect opportunity to get experience with the organization and begin networking. Not only did the project prove to be transformational in the sense that it did provide me with a deeper understanding for what Franklin County Children Services does and a better chance to get more involved with the organization, but it also opened my eyes to the complexities of the foster system and the issues that youth involved in the system face throughout their lives.

I had always assumed that working with children services would be a taxing job that required much emotional resilience. However, after having completed my project (though my involvement with the youth still continues), I realize that I was still very oblivious to the challenges involved with working in children services. Although I believe that the my role with my mentee as a friend and role model played a great role in the strong emotions I felt, I learned that I will need more practice in the field of social work managing the difficult emotions before I put myself on the front line with children services. Though child welfare is an area I am still very passionate about, my passion became more focused on transforming the system to minimize the negative effects it can half on the youth and impacting the issues that cause so many children to be involved in the system, including drug abuse and poverty.

The girl I mentored was living with family, because both parents no longer were living. However, the impact of poverty and the age of her family members created living situations for her and her siblings that were neglectful. The impact of peer pressure, grief, and bullying also resulted in the children acting out. As a result, she was moved to a foster home, and a few more soon after, before finally ending up with family for what is hopefully a permanent living arrangement. All of the moving around, however, began only months after her and I began the mentorship program. Such unrest in her living situation revealed the difficulties involved in foster care, as there always seemed to be unanswered questions and confusion for all parties involved. I found myself personally always trying to get the latest information so I could keep in contact; such experiences revealed how much more difficult it must be for those social workers investigating the case, not only of just one family, but many families simultaneously. I quickly learned that children services was much more overwhelming than I had imagined

Not only did that experience show how overwhelming it must be for those social workers with children services, but it also revealed the complexities involved. My understanding of child welfare always came from the news stories that were seemingly very straightforward, where the abuse and neglect were obvious. However, I found myself conflicted when my mentee was removed from her family’s care, as from my perspective, though the living conditions were not ideal, they seemed to love the children unconditionally. It seemed to uncover a lot of gray area where the needs of the children need to be weighed to decide what is best for them. Having such a relationship, not only with my mentee, but also her family, made seeing the displacement of the children into the foster system very frustrating.

Finally, one of the biggest things I learned about myself through the experience was my dread of visiting strangers’ homes. Because she moved four times in the six months that was considered my project, I had to go into four different neighborhoods (some of which were not the safest) and meet four different families to keep in contact with my mentee. Some families were more welcoming and easier to contact than the others. However, not knowing what or who I was facing every time I called or visited to introduce myself to her new foster parents created much fear in me. I imagined having to visit new homes in different neighborhoods every day as a part of my job, with the potential of walking into dangerous situations when dealing with possible violent people or animals, and I quickly realized home visits were not something that I wished to do on a daily basis as a part of my job.

Although I wished that this experience would simply give me experience with foster care and child welfare to be more comfortable in entering into the field for my career, I gained both that and the insight that working directly in child welfare might not be my calling. Therefore, instead of applying to work with Franklin Country Children Services for my senior field placement, I decided, instead, to go into the area of residential mental health, where I will still get to help with some of the issues youth face when they spend time in the foster system without having to deal with the complexities, frustrations, and personal fears associated with working in child welfare directly. That being said, I hope that, by still working with children who are involved in the foster system, I will become more comfortable dealing with my emotions and fears, and eventually feel confident enough through my training as a social worker to spend some time working as a part of children services at some point in my career. Finally, my STEP project gave me a better understanding of the field of social work as a whole, and how emotionally difficult it will be. I will take the insights I have gained from this experience and focus on those as I move forward in my field placement to grow personally and professionally.

Once Upon A Time in Appalachia

My project was a service trip through Buck-i-Serv to Maryville, TN where we focused on environmental restoration and helping and learning about the Cherokee Indians. On this trip, I was involved in cleaning the Smokey Mountains and on a Cherokee Reservation, I really got to learn how to and why it is important to care of the environment and about the Cherokee culture. The other aspect of my project was to do photography and for it to aid me in my goals of doing photography as a career.

My trip to Maryville, TN allowed me to change my view of how I see the world. I was able to go to the Smokey Mountains and Snowbird Cherokee Reservation and do a lot of environmental work for a week. Throughout the week I got to learn a lot about myself. I cared about the environment before this trip, but while in the Smokey Mountains I got to meet a lot of people that do so much for the environment every day. This gave me a new appreciation and understanding as to why it is so important to care about the environment everyday. I got to learn ways I can help anywhere I am and this really opened my eyes as to how important it is, especially right now since we live in a world that is really showing the effects of humans and it is so important to try and remedy this.

I also got to help a Cherokee family on the Snowbird Cherokee Reservation with their building project. While driving through the reservation, I really got to see how the Cherokee people live very modest lifestyles. We got to meet with the people and they were happy and kind people, they did not need a lot of materialistic goods to be happy. While they did have goods, it was not anything to the extent that we know American to have today. I am Cherokee so getting to meet with the people and learning more of their customs and ways I got to learn a lot about my heritage. This really taught me a lot about myself and where I come from which made this trip more special to me.

The first relationship that led to the change I had on this trip was with our hosts Ed and Arlene. Ed and Arlene were extremely gracious hosts, they love having college students come in and teaching them their vast knowledge of caring for the environment. Each day we were at their cabins, they taught us something new. For example, they taught us of various invasive species of plants to the area and we spent time pulling them and getting rid of as much as we could around their land and in the Smokey Mountains. They also taught us how to can foods, living with a wood burning stove, of the native animals and how to care for them and not invade their area, and much more. Seeing how they live and hearing what they had to share was a very big component of the change I had in being more environmentally conscious. They were very big influence on me and I greatly appreciate getting to meet them and spend a week with them because it really opened up many new things for me.

Next, the interaction I had with the Cherokee family we helped from Snowbird helped to cause the second change. This change had to do with learning more about my heritage and getting to meet some of the people that are of same descent. I never got the chance before to meet and Cherokee people and see the way they live and this was a great opportunity to be able to experience that and also get to learn more about the culture. We helped the family with their home building project and on our way in we got to see the reservation and the modest lifestyle they lived. I really enjoyed getting to see that way of living. We also got to learn more about the Cherokee past when we met with the librarian and she answered any questions we had, she told us a lot of information we were never taught before. Finally, we learned a traditional Cherokee game that is played when a man wants to marry, it shows the potential wife how he and his friends are so that she knows what her future husband will be like. All of these interactions really taught me a lot about my heritage and made me want to learn more. These interaction caused a big change in me that way because previously I had some interest in knowing about my heritage but after this trip I had more desire to learn about it and try and live in that way more.

The last relationship that really helped me develop the change was with our trip advisor. He already lived a very outdoorsy lifestyle, and while on this trip he taught us more about the importance of experiencing the outdoors and caring for it. I have always really enjoyed being outdoors but after this trip I had more drive to want to spend time outside and care for it. He told of us the adventure he has had and why he believes spending time outside is good for you. It all really resonated with me, I really connected with what he was telling us and wanted to have more adventures like he did. Not for the sake of saying I have done certain things either, I genuinely want to live a more outdoorsy lifestyle so that I have a healthier life and can experience all the world has to offer and give back and care for the issues I see while I am out in the world. I feel very lucky that I got to have him as my trip advisor as he caused a very big change in me.

This change is valuable for my life because it has given me an even bigger appreciation for the world. Prior to this trip, I enjoyed being outdoors some and doing things to help the world, after this trip I really notice the things I can do to help the environment and I also enjoy being outdoors even more and have gone on many more hikes and camping trips since this trip and I play to continue this. This change really affected my personal life more than anything else. As I am more aware of the impact that I have on the world and changes I have made to make my impact smaller. It matters because the world we live in needs more people realizing their impact and making the changes to lessen it. We also live in a society that enjoys staying inside and having material goods. It is important to experience the outside world and go out more and explore, this will make a positive change on our health and view of the world. So, the changes of being more environmentally conscious, wanting to know of my heritage and culture, and spending more time outdoors experience and caring more it have really made an impact on my personal life.

Log Chopping

Great Smokey Mountains

Making Jam


Making Jam

Exploring the Waterfall


Buck-I-Serv Habitat for Humanity Eustis, Florida

David Ruffner

Service Project


STEP Service Project-Habitat for Humanity

            The Service project I choose to do was a Habitat for Humanity project in Eustis, Florida. This project focused on partnering with Habitat for Humanity to help build affordable housing for Veterans in the area. The project we specifically worked on was a place called Veteran’s Village where we helped finish up the roofing and inside painting for 3 homes.

I think this project certainly gave me a chance to look more on myself and the people around. One big thing I took form this trip is how Ohio State was able to get a whole group of students together to do a project like this. It allowed me to see that there are other people around me who want to get out there and help others. This idea helps open up my views of the world because as an individual you cannot always make the impact that you hope to but with the help of others you can get bigger goals done like helping people get housing they deserve. Also knowing that groups like Habitat for Humanity are able to get volunteers year round motivates me as a volunteer because it shows that even when I may not be able to be there to help that others will be available to fill the gap.

I think this trip helped to also open my eyes more to what I want to do when I leave college. Though things like building affordable housing does not pertain directly to my field, chemical engineering, this trip showed me that service will still be important. I think I will be able to use my degree to hopefully find a job that does try to help the community so that I can know my work, though not directly service, is helping to make a difference. It will also help shape my life because I hope to wherever I land in the country or world that I will look for groups like Habitat for Humanity and will get involved with their cause. I believe that by helping even in the smallest ways I can continue the good work that I was able to achieve in Eustis Florida. I know now how key I take service to heart and how I hope it shapes my life in the future.

I can think of three major parts of this trip that shaped how it affected me. The first was the people in general. This was a combination of Carlos, our representative from Habitat for Humanity, Bob and Dolaris, the couple who ran the site, the other volunteers from the community and also my fellow Ohio State students. I went into this trip not knowing any of the people going as I got in the trip as an alternate and was not able to meet up with anyone beforehand. One the trip started I got to start meeting people and getting to know them. It though wasn’t until we started service that I feel like I started to connect with people the most. It was great to see other people who were like minded to me in that they were putting all their effort into helping to make a difference. This sentiment also went to the other volunteers who were there because they had been working prior to our arrival and were continuing after we left. Sometimes just seeing that other people care as much as you, makes the work seem more impactful as you know that it doesn’t end. This look on the work is what continues to attract it to me and will most likely impact my life from here out.

The second event was just how I carried myself while working. During the whole service, I constantly wanted to keep working to help get done as much as I possibly could because the work felt impactful. I found myself disappointed at the end of the day and wanting to eat my lunch fast so I could go back and help finish the section I had stopped at. The biggest example of this fell on the last day when we had only a half day due to us needing to begin our drive back to Columbus. On that last day we were getting near finishing all the rooking on one of the house, a job that me and two other people worked on the whole time, and when it came time to pack up for the day there was only one small piece left that needed cut and fitted. Tw hole time I was packing up the supplies I just sat there and was like “ come on just let me do the last piece so that I know it is finished” but of course we needed to make sure we stayed on schedule and the other volunteer who had worked with me assured me they would get it. It was just that feeling that made me think a little more on the impact of service in my life because it had become more than a simple experience. It had become something that I had put myself into and was not 100% willing to just let go of it. In that instance, I knew then that I would always want to continue making the impact that came from service.

The last part of the trip that truly made an impact on me was when we got to meet a family who was going to move into one of the houses. We had been given the heads up the day before that a couple was coming to visit the house and look around the area the next day and I honestly was looking forward to the experience. When the next day did come I was one of the last people over there to say hello to the couple as I had been working on a different house then almost everyone else. When I did get over there though, it was a very fulfilling moment.  Just getting to meet them would have been enough but they talked with us for a couple minutes talking about stuff like the husband’s time in the military and other small stories. Throughout all of this though you could just see the happiness in both of their eyes at the sight of the house. Most of service I have done hasn’t been the most hands on service and when it is it is usually something much smaller scale then the project for Habitat for Humanity. It was that concept of seeing the impact and knowing how much something can mean to people. To you it is only a week of doing what you see as the right thing to do but in reality it is a lifetime in that this service will help shape the lives of the people for the rest of their lifetime. Being able to see this larger scope brought another layer to service for me and has motived me to keep pushing the boundaries when I can to help.

This trip is important because it will now shape who I am for the rest of my life. As I discussed I will use this trip as a platform for how I shape my future. I hope to be able to continue service throughout my life and this trip has found another outlet to do so. I will now take the chance to continue work with Habitat for Humanity when able to. This type of service allows me to provide value to my community and help make a difference outside of my life. These are goals that I believe to be important in life and those any chance I get to do these things is worthwhile and life changing. This experience in particular was able to bring service to a new level and bring it to a much larger scale.

There is no real way to quantify how this trip was able to change me but it certainly helped to shape who I will become. It has helped me expand my scope and see the impact that I as one person can make. I will continue to do this work/service because I know it is the right thing to do and I know that along with the help of others it is making a difference. I believe this sort of mentality is important when thinking about the world holistically. We as Americans tend to take things for granted as we are a very privileged nation, though we have are many faults.  I believe that this trip was just a small internal example of what we need to do worldwide in that we need to extend the hand to show others they are not alone. By showing we are willing to help, even if just in our own country, we are setting example to others that support is out there. Sometimes people just need to know they are not alone in their endeavors and then they can go on to make an impact. I am not saying this trip was to this magnitude but I am saying that it helps open the discussion and is a great way for people to get started in making a difference.


Buck-I-Serv & Break A Difference: New Orleans

Name: Claire Hasley

For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled with roughly 20 other OSU students to New Orleans during Spring Break through Buck-I-Serv. We stayed in Slidell, Louisiana, and worked alongside people at various different service sites throughout the week. During our free time, we got to explore New Orleans by ourselves, which included several trips to Cafe Du Monde.
From the trip, I became more open to meeting new people and learned to love hearing about people’s backgrounds. Going into the trip, I knew no one. I was worried about spending an entire week without anyone I knew, but the first night of the trip, my fellow OSU students and I bonded so quickly. I found that I could be myself around people I had just met such a short time ago. Barely anyone on the trip knew anyone else, so we were all in the same boat. While staying in New Orleans, we stayed with students from two other colleges. The one thing my Buck-I-Serv group had in common was being from OSU, and this was a commonality that brought us all together in a very short time. Also, while in New Orleans, we got to interact with people from different backgrounds at the various service sites we worked at during the week. In doing so, I was able to see firsthand how everyone in the community can contribute to making it a better place.
New Orleans is still rebuilding after the horrible devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Throughout the week, I volunteered at various different sites with my subgroup, and we got to build relationships with the people of New Orleans. At the first service site, we worked alongside of people with disabilities who work daily to recycle beads that were used in past parades around New Orleans. The next two days, we created relationships working alongside the same people at a secondhand store called the Green Project. Their main focus is rehabbing building supplies to be used again. While there we got to pick our coworkers’ brains about things to do in New Orleans, how life has changed since the floods, and how people on the outside can really help this rich and lively community thrive and return to its former glory. On our last service day, we helped set up for a fundraising gala at the Audubon Zoo. Throughout the week, it became apparent how the everyone in the community of New Orleans works together to rebuild and sustain themselves. Several specific interactions really were the turning point of the change that the trip brought upon myself.
In addition to our interactions with our coworkers, we interacted with other people of New Orleans in a different fashion. In the middle of the week, myself and a few other girls from the trip stopped in a random cafe after grabbing dinner on Magazine St, and we found ourselves engaged in a conversation with the barista. He was so open and real about life in New Orleans and answered any question that we had. It was refreshing to connect with such a beautiful, genuine person.
Later on in the week, we went on a swamp tour. Our tour guide was born in the swamp and had such a passion for learning about where he lived. He had quite an extensive knowledge that kept us all engaged throughout the entire ride. He even had a great relationship with the animals of the swamp and knew just how to make them come out so that we could see them.
Following the swamp tour, we got to meet up with the Cajun Buckeyes, the New Orleans sector of the OSU Alumni Association. We got to pick the brains of recent alumni and got to hear about stories of success from OSU graduates who majored in an array of things. The interactions with the people of New Orleans was definitely the highlight of my trip!
Going forward, this trip has made me more open to the unknown. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the entire experience and how it changed me as a person. I am now more open to putting myself in uncomfortable, new situations and hoping for the best. In addition, the trip opened my eyes to how people still suffer even when the story is no longer on the front page of the newspaper. Hurricane Katrina is remembered yearly, and updates are given to the general public. However, brief updates from afar do not compare to actually experiencing the turmoil that still exists as a city struggles to get back on their feet over 10 years later. The trip has made me more aware of ways that I can help communities in need from afar and up close. The trip was a positive experience and one of the highlights of my college years thus far.


Buck-I-Serv Grand Canyon Trip

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.


We first arrived at the Palatki Heritage Site in Sedona, Arizona and spent three days building trails and learning about the history of the Palatki ruins. Then, we traveled to the Grand Canyon where we learned how to work as a team while hiking, camping, and white-water rafting.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.


What I came to understand the most during this trip is that something so small can make such a huge change in the world. Even just a group of college students can change an experience for thousands of people. For the next few years to come, everyone who enters the Pataki Heritage Site will be able to experience these trails that we put so much work into.  I never believed that I would be able to impact people or make an impression on someone’s life, but now I know that everyone who enjoys the heritage site in the future will appreciate the work that I did even if they don’t acknowledge it. I will forever be a part of their experience, and that makes me like I’ve contributed to society and history. Not only will it be a part of their experience, but it will always be a part of the caretakers’ experience as well. They were so appreciative of work, and this truly made me feel as if I made a difference in the world even if it may just be a small difference.

I also learned that when I put my mind to something that I’m passionate about, it feels more rewarding than just work. Then, when you get a group of people together who are all passionate about the same thing, it’s easier to work as a team and share your ideas. I’m very passionate about serving people who may not have the necessary help, and I’m passionate about preserving history so that it will never be forgotten. This trip combined two of my passions perfectly. I was able to help the caretakers of this site make this piece of history beautiful and more enjoyable, and they may not have been able to do this work without our help. Hopefully, these efforts will help attract people to the site so that more and more people will continue to care about and help preserve historical landmarks like the heritage site.

It is very rewarding to know that my services may have helped bring people to the site and may have helped get people to care more about our great history. This trip helped me understand that I can actually make impact. I don’t think that every person who goes to the heritage site will think about the efforts that went into making it look the way it does, but that doesn’t matter. I know that I can change a person’s experience even if it may go unnoticed. Without the support of my group, I may never have been as passionate about the project. Their passions helped push me even more to care about our service project and how it could impact future visitors for years to come. This trip has helped me learn that if I want to continue to pursue my passions, I will need to surround myself with people who are just as passionate (if not more than) about something as I am.


  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.


When I was standing there in the Grand Canyon, I felt microscopic. I felt as if the world was so much bigger than I ever imagined and nothing I could do would make even the slightest difference. Then, I thought back to our community service project just two days before. I thought back to the smiles on the caretakers’ faces when we finished our project early and asked if we could do more for them and the genuine gratitude they had for our work. I realized that I don’t have to change the world for everyone, but I can still change the world for someone. The trails that we paved at the Palatki Heritage Site will be used by thousands of people for years to come, and I will always be a part of their experience.

This transformation would not have been possible without my Buck-I-Serv group and leaders. Each night, after we hiked, rafted, or volunteered, we would have reflection. During these reflections, we would discuss what values and lessons we learned during the day or the week. It seemed so easy for everyone to share their transformation each night because we knew that our other group members were genuinely interested in our lives. This made working as a group easier and more enjoyable. We all knew that everyone there was not only passionate about the work, but they were passionate about each other. My other group members genuinely wanted me to succeed and transform, and this only served as a catalyst for that transformation. One night during our reflection, our group leader asked us if we would take any new lessons or memories with us in the future. I didn’t know how to answer this. I said, “I don’t think I will know what I’ll take with me until this trip is over, and I can think back to certain memories I’ve made.” This was me before my transformation. I didn’t know what I was learning, and I may not have wanted to take anything back with me. Now I know that I’ve taken every memory with me, and now I can write a whole paper about how I’ve transformed from that moment. Just being able to understand who I was at that moment, and how I wasn’t very accepting to change, makes it easier now to be able see just how much I’ve transformed and how much I use these lessons and memories to shape my future.

One of the most rewarding activities we did throughout the week was called “Five Minutes of Fame.” During this activity, one group member would volunteer to have the spotlight for five minutes. The other group members could ask this person any questions they wanted to. This got very intimate, but it was a good kind of closeness. I genuinely wanted to learn about my group members’ lives, childhoods, wishes, fears, and dreams. These conversations allowed us to get closer to one another in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. When I volunteered for my five minutes, I was able to open up to my group members like I’ve never opened up before. I felt cared for. These people asked me questions that even my best friends have never asked me before. This one activity helped me open up to people I barely knew which I never would have been able to do before this trip.

After we finished our project at the heritage site, and before starting our voyage to the canyon, we wanted to look for someone else to serve in Sedona, so we volunteered at a food pantry in Sedona. This wasn’t even on our schedule, but it is one of my favorite memories from the trip. There were only five people who worked at this pantry, and they were struggling to keep up with the need to give out food to the community, so when we told them that we could help, they were extremely excited. One of the women, Omi, was in charge of storing and packing food to give out, and a few others and I worked with her to pack food into bags. She told us that this would have taken her the whole week if she had to do it by herself, but we finished it in two hours. She could not contain her gratitude for us, and, like before, this made me feel like I’ve actually made an impact on someone’s life. I had never felt this way before. I learned that just half a day of volunteering to help someone can change their lives. I learned that not all of my efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated. Most importantly, I learned that I can make a difference, and I hope I can use this self transformation to continue to impact people in the future.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.


This transformation will provide significant value to my life in many ways. First, I learned how to work in a team which is a beneficial skill to have for both my academic and professional careers. Being able to share and bond over our passions, dreams, and lives in a group will only make working together easier and more productive. I will feel comfortable sharing my own ideas and accepting the ideas of others. I also learned the importance of helping others. The caretakers of the Palatki Heritage Site would not have been able to do that trail work on their own. They would have had to wait until another group of 16 dedicated college students came along to volunteer, but it may have been years before that would happen.

Some people in this world can’t do certain things on their own; they need help from others. While I am young and able, I want to commit to helping others whether this is for my academic, personal, or professional career. I want to serve as a tutor and mentor for someone who needs help with school or with work. In my personal life, I want to continue to volunteer for people whenever I get the chance. I learned the importance of volunteering on this trip, and I will forever remember those smiles on the caretakers’ faces. I will do anything to see those smiles again from anyone I help.