My Signature STEP Project was a Service-Learning project that through Pay It Forward called Community Commitment Day. Community Commitment Day is a campus-wide service event in which OSU students affiliated faculty members reach out to the greater Columbus community to participate in a day of service. It is the single largest service event planned on a college campus nationally and allows OSU students to connect to the greater Columbus community and be exposed to different types of philanthropies and service projects that the community has to offer.
I learned a lot about myself and community through my time of planning my community service project. Previously in my time as a volunteer in high school and college settings, I was exposed to a lot of direct service experiences. Such examples of these service experiences include teaching core service values to elementary-school aged students. This type of service entailed interacting directly with the students. It was a transformative experience for me to be predominately behind-the-scenes as I planned Community Commitment. Many of the tasks that I was asked to complete included many behind-the-scenes logistical situations: getting agencies signed up for the day of service, assigning the most efficient bus routes, advertising and signing up site leaders, and many more behind-the-scenes tasks. It was transformational because it taught me the important lesson of the many small tasks that make a project successful and allows the event to run with ease. There are many people behind-the-scenes of various projects, service-related or not, that put in many hard hours to achieve a level of success. Although it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, problem-solving skills, and grit, seeing the project come to fruition was one of the most rewarding processes.
A second transformative experience was to see the longer-lasting effects of the act of service on the individuals that participated. I have always appreciated the “larger” message or reasoning behind why things are done specific ways. A major component that we stress while planning Community Commitment is the idea of service-learning. We feel as if there is no reflection after the service completed, the participating student is losing a chance to reflect and see the “larger’ message of the service that was conducted. It was really inspirational and transformative to see the students’ moods before they left for their service destination and upon arrival back to the university after completing their day of service. Many times, these type of service events draw freshmen and newer students. It was really heartwarming to see some students who were sitting quietly and tired at the crack of dawn on the Saturday morning of Welcome Week in the Union waiting to complete their day of service. It is hard to be excited about anything at 7:30 am on a Saturday, but upon arrival back to the Union, you could see some new relationships that had formed amongst participants within the service groups and how they had enjoyed whatever type of service that had just previously completed. It was a learning experience for me to understand firsthand the long-term impact that service-learning projects can have on individuals. It not only creates connections between students but additionally between students and the community they serve.
There were many leading factors that allowed me to reach the level of transformation that I experienced this summer through my service-learning project. Firstly, I had a phenomenal group of co-chairs that helped me plan the event: Jess and Zack and our adviser, AJ. These people taught me skills that I had not had before the experience as well as re-instilling some of my stronger skill sets. We spent the entire summer completing different segments of planning. The first segment of planning the large-scale service event was calling Agencies. Agencies are considered the philanthropic organizations or service projects in the greater Columbus area in which OSU students would be bused out in order to complete their day of service. Our first challenge was to call 250-300 agencies in hopes that we would be able to schedule enough agencies to fill 1,000 student spots. It took a lot of persersitence and perseverance to complete this process. We split up the amount of agencies among the four of us and gave ourselves a deadline to complete the calls. Perhaps one of the hardest parts of this process was the fact that many people do not pick up their phones nowadays. Many messages were left in the hopes that the information of this special service day would not get lost in translation. After about 4 weeks of calls, we reached our quota and had over 60 agencies registered to host close to 1,000 OSU students. A big thanks to the greater Columbus Goodwill stores for registering almost 70 OSU students to come and have a meaningful day of service. I learned the intense organization that it takes to pull off such a task as one of the transformative behind-the-scenes skills that I had gained. I have always kept some level of organization, but not to the extent of my co-chairs. Through their organization, I was able to become more organized myself in order to be successful at planning the event. Because of this experience of heavy planning and organization,I now regularly use a planner and Google Calendar. I have found beneficial uses for both and will continue to use them.
Secondly, the next aspect of the project was my main initiative. I was in charge of advertising the position of site leaders to the greater Columbus community. Site leaders are OSU students who are responsible for the his or her specific group that is taken out into the greater Columbus community to complete service, and is most of all responsible for leading the learning component of the service day through reflection. It is hard to plan for a position of this sort because the majority of our planning is done during the summertime when the majority of Ohio State students are not in Columbus area, and additionally, are not thinking about anything school-related. This process helped me develop and improve my skill of patience. I learned to finish everything that I could possibly do in the time period that I had and to be satisfied with the work I had accomplished. Knowing that we had 60 agencies to branch OSU students out towards, I went ahead and created the 60 site leader packets that would be used by each site leader, even though we didn’t quite reach our capacity of site leaders yet. In fact, by the first day of classes, we only had 10 site leaders signed up, but by the end of the week, all of the spots were filled. It was important for me to learn to do everything that I could in that moment, but beyond that moment, I learned to be patient and let the work do itself. After all of the site leaders were signed up, we had them come early on the morning of service for a presentation. I led the presentation which helped me to develop my public speaking skills. The main objectives of the meeting was to explain the logistics of the day to the site leaders and most importantly, the reflection part of the day that they would be leading. The public speaking aspect help reinstill the fact that if I am going to present in front of many people, I need to make sure I know the information inside and out in order to answer any questions that may be asked.
Lastly, one of the most rewarding processes was seeing the day all come together. The morning began with the site leader training and an opening convocation that featured Dr. J. After Dr. J. presented an important message about service and serving our community, the volunteers were sent out to their respective sites. This is perhaps where I completed my greatest amount of growing in the shortest amount of time. The team of Jess, Zack, and I really challenged our communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills as we sat in one of the rooms of the Union and awaited to hear from each site leader that they had made it to their project site. Unfortunately for us, nothing this large-scale runs this smoothly on a Saturday morning. We experienced many obstacles all at once as we received flustered phone calls from site leaders that had been taken to the wrong site, arrived at their specified site but there was no one there to direct them in their service project, bus routes that had gone rogue, and people completing projects within the first fifteen minutes. Each of us had to think instantly on our feet and creatively in order to ensure that these students, which may have been their first impression of service, were having a positive experience. We were able to problem-solve some of the issues by rerouting the buses, calling the leads of the agencies that had signed up but no one showed up, and creating service projects by using the free t-shirts that were for the event to make tie blankets that would be donated to local shelters. It was a stressful time as many people were talking all at once and addressing various situations, but you could say, for the most part, we problem-solved without a hitch. This really transformed me and allowed me to learn the behind-the-scenes portions that go along with planning a large-scale event. Lastly, I was also able to see the satisfaction and happiness on many of the students’ faces upon their arrival, and that’s where I learned another transformative experience on the long-term impact of service-learning projects on others.
The transformation of learning the behind-the-scenes attributes and the lasting impacts of learning-service on individuals is important to me and my future as I gear up for a career in the healthcare field. It is important to note the silent warriors and heroes of healthcare that ensure the operation run smoothly such as PCAs, nurses, receptionists, and hospital administrative staff. These people tend to deal with a lot of the obstacles and challenges that come with providing healthcare to many people, yet they do it with a smile across their face and skip in their step. I learned that these behind-the-scenes and planning tasks can be very challenging at times and take a lot of persistence and patience, but they are necessary and important parts to a successful project. Futhermore, I believe the long-term aspect of service-learning is important in the healthcare field because healthcare is an interactive environment in which you are giving yourself to others. While talking about day-to-day life with patients and learning the details of different cultures and backgrounds, it is important to make sure that a lesson is always being learned along the way. I want to ensure that I am making an impact on others’ days and am not just another appointment that the patient has to check off of a list. I think learning this long-term impact will be valuable to me in my future endeavors in ensuring that I pass the lesson of importance, impact, and greater meaning onto others. I had a terrific and transformative service-learning experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served the greater Columbus community.
Pictured below, are some images of service from Community Commitment and my team presenting on the day of service!