A New Perspective

For those of you who do not know, The Ohio State University has a mission, vision, set of values and core goals. At Ohio State, we value excellence, diversity in people and of ideas, inclusion, access and affordability, innovation, collaboration and multidisciplinary endeavor, and integrity. Undoubtedly, these values are important. However, I never had a first-hand experience to allow me to see why these values were important to me personally. I am happy to now say after going on my first Buck-I-SERV trip, I feel more connected than ever to these university values.

This past spring break, I went to Appalachia Ohio in a place called Vinton County with five fellow Buckeyes to serve. Although we were there to teach about college access, I think I was the one who ended up learning the most. Growing up in a suburb of Columbus, I did not know what to expect going to one of the most rural parts of Columbus. However, I know that I never expected to be enlightened so much by the people that I met and by the beauty of Appalachia Ohio. In my week in Vinton county, we worked with elementary, middle, and high school kids. Through various activities, we were there to promote the idea of pursuing something after high school, whether it be a 4-year college or a technical school.

In my time there, I saw many hardships. I talked to the teachers who told me about the lack of support in many of the households the kids were raised in. I heard some disappointing and tragic stories. It is easy to focus on the bad, but I want to focus on the good, and in my time in Vinton County, I saw so much good. I saw the investment of individuals at the Ohio State Extension Office working to make sure children could participate in engaging programs after school. I met students who had such a strong commitment and pride associated with their family, which was admirable to see. I met a high school English teacher, who is also a retired lawyer. She realized the legal system could not help the community, so she became a teacher. It was inspirational to see how she would could motivate any and all students. She valued each student’s uniqueness and believed that they could be great, even when they did not believe this themselves.

Coming from a fairly privileged background, it is easy for me to think that places like the inner-city and rural Ohio are in need of “fixing” and do not have much to offer. Yet, the reality is, there is a lot that I have learned and can learn by exposing myself to such communities. I have learned to better value the diversity of experience. I have learned the importance of having a strengths-based perspective, which is focusing on others’ abilities, talents, and resources, rather than others’ problems and deficits. I have learned and seen the impact of genuine dedication and investment towards a community. I am thankful to Ohio State and Buck-I-SERV for allowing me the opportunity to widen my perspective and feel better connected to the values that we hold dear as Buckeyes.


Buck-I-SERV: The trip of your life

Picture this: you’re hammering nails for a house you’re helping to build while under the sun in 70 degree weather in Florida; then at night, you’re sitting on the beach, sipping your iced tea, watching the sunset with fellow Buckeyes who have become your best friends.


Building homes isn’t your thing? How about entering a urban middle school, building relationships with at-risk youth through one-on-one interactions, tutoring, playing a game of ball, etc., and getting rewarded by enjoying some southern soul food in the heart of Atlanta?


You say you are more of an outdoors type? Let’s take a trip to Minnesota where you can serve as a camp counselor to youth who have been affected by HIV/AIDS, live in transitional housing, identify as LGBTQ, or have diabetes.


Do you want to get far away from Ohio? Then head to Colorado to help prepare shoes that will be shipped out of the country to countries where shoes are a luxury.


Now you’re doubting me and saying that there isn’t anything out there that can accommodate this, especially for college students. We go to The Ohio State University where there is something for everyone. To silence the doubters, YES, there something called Buck-I-SERV, where you can do exactly what I mentioned above and more! Now, I know you have some questions and concerns, so let me start addressing them.

What exactly is Buck-I-SERV? 

According to Buck-I-SERV’s website, “Buck-I-SERV is a weeklong, substance-free program centered on community service and civic engagement.” My interpretation: you get to travel to new places, see and experience new things with other Buckeyes all while helping the local community. These trips are offered during winter, spring and summer breaks and are typically 10-person trips, however, there are some that are 20- and even 50-person trips!

Wait, can I explore the city where I’m serving?

YES!!! This isn’t just a work trip (although, I wouldn’t call what you do there as “work”), it’s also a social trip! Go ahead and visit the local restaurants and attractions. Actually, you are required to explore the city and have fun! When I went to Atlanta, I tried my first ever chicken and waffles, a southern staple.  So before you say “well, I really want to go to the beach and I don’t think I can do that on a Buck-I-SERV trip”, think again.


Where will I stay?

You aren’t living in the presidential suite at a Ritz-Carlton, but depending on where you go to, you will be living in anything from a hostel to log cabins, and even alumni homes! On my Buck-I-SERV trip, we lived in a church with three other universities!

This sounds expensive!

$200-$400 for a week long trip. No, I did not forget to add an extra zero on the end. Yes, they are that cheap. These prices include the ride to and from the service city, housing, site fees and also a small donation. Although you have to pay for food, you were already planning to pay for it when you were booking your $300 flight.

I’ve already visited all 50 states, so I don’t think there is anything for me.

Hahaha. Good one. For those of you who have been lucky enough to visit all 50 states, good for you, I’m still trying to get there. But I highly doubt you’ve been to Marysville, TN or Pocahontas County, WV. Even if you’ve been to places like Dallas, Boston, New York or Chicago, I’m sure the last time you went, you didn’t serve their community and see things you would have never seen by simply being a tourist. And if you want to be more adventurous, you can go serve abroad. In fact, for the 2013-2014 school year, there have been Buck-I-SERV trips to five different countries!


Information overload!

I know, I’m sorry. I probably told you more in this one blog than you learned in your survey class. But fear not, if you need more information, go ahead and check out Buck-I-SERV’s website.

As I start to wind down this blog, I hope you give Buck-I-SERV a look when you are planning your future breaks. Be on the look out for the applications, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Not to be cliché, but the memories, the people that you meet, and the experiences that you gain on these trips will truly last forever.