This article was written by Cynthia Wu, a medical student and communication chair for the Service Learning Coalition.
Finding ways to stay engaged with peers and the local community has been one of many challenges this past year. With vaccinations underway, leaders of the Service Learning Coalition (SLC) were able to organize and host IU School of Medicine’s first statewide Service Learning Day on May 1, 2021.
Students from various campuses were able to volunteer safely with a community organization and engage in service with their peers for a few hours.
Students volunteered with Community One to pull weeds, mow and plant flowers to revamp the community garden at Tepe Park.
“I think service is an important part of being a well-rounded person, which we will all need to be as physicians to provide our patients with the best possible care,” Ashton Bosler, SLC’s Evansville regional chair, said. “On top of that, our community here in Evansville truly provides us great support as a medical school, so giving back for a few hours is the least we can do. As future physicians, many people will look up to us, and it is important that we set a positive example for others to follow. Participating in community service is undoubtedly one way to set a positive example.”
At West Lafayette:
Students spent their morning helping to clean one of the residential buildings at LTHC Homeless Services.
“I think the biggest thing I learned from this day was how meaningful it can be for others to get what seems like such insignificant help with just cleaning,” Claire Marks, SLC’s West Lafayette regional chair said. “The clients were so appreciative and it was cool to see how big of a difference that could make for someone.”
Students volunteered with Outreach Indiana, whose mission is to empower teens and young adults who are experiencing homelessness.
“Outreach offers so many vital services to teens who are experiencing home insecurity or actual homelessness,” Jamel Hill, SLC’s Indianapolis regional chair, said. “From vital documentation services (helping teens get their State ID's or even Social Security cards), to breakfast and lunch, to showers, or even a library, Outreach Indiana is one of the fullest encompassing facilities I have volunteered at.”
Students served over 100 households on a food distribution day with Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.
Natasa Petreska, SLC’s previous Northwest regional chair and current president, said she enjoyed spending time with her classmates to give back. “The service project taught me about the food insecurities that people in the local community face and how the food bank works to help fight those insecurities,” she said.
At Muncie: David Emch, SLC’s Muncie regional chair, led a group of students who worked with Ross Community Center to do some landscaping, including mulching, weeding and planting vegetables in the free community garden.
“Not only was the weather perfect and the day productive, the work we were doing had a long-term impact,” he said. “We planted some peas and cucumbers that will go on to feed Muncie residents from Ross Community Center’s free community market. We also landscaped around the community recreation area to make the area cleaner and safer for local children to play there.”
At South Bend:
At Near Northwest Neighborhood, students helped set up breakfast for the volunteers, picked up trash around the neighborhood and ended the morning by visiting the pay it forward coffee shop.
“I personally learned about what the neighborhood was like as I am not too familiar with some of the regions in South Bend,” Nikki Sorg, a rising MS2 at South Bend, said. “It was really neat that the neighborhood had a pay it forward coffee shop so anyone could come get a free cup of coffee (or lemonade) or donate money to continue paying it forward. It was awesome to see how South Bend and the community was really attempting to build more of a sense of community in this neighborhood and to clean up trash to build it up, too.”
Another group of students volunteered at Dismas House, which provides housing and other services to assist with re-entry for adults recently released from incarceration.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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