Rowan University freshmen engage in volunteerism around the region
Gloucester County Times
by Jessica Bautista
Freshman Connection — a program designed to engage Rowan University first-year students in volunteerism and service learning — has gotten off to a running start this week.
In just their first day out, the volunteer group has managed to donate their time and efforts to the Gloucester County Habitat for Humanity, the Cumberland County SPCA and had a recreation night with an organization for adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.
The group consists of a dozen incoming freshman and four upperclassmen at the helm — all of which reported to Rowan a week before class begins to volunteer around the region.
“We tell them, ‘If you think this is for you, we think it’s for you, too,’” said Andrew Perrone, head of Rowan’s Office of Service Learning, Volunteerism and Community Engagement.
“It’s amazing some of the experiences students already have had coming in. We’ve had freshmen already say to us that there are projects that they want to lead here at Rowan,” Perrone said.
According to Perrone, a similar program was available years earlier, but the Freshman Connection is just in its third year.
The program is designed to pique students’ interests, help them grow as individuals and form new relationships in the process.
And judging by what some of the students have been saying — it’s working.
“I think it’s excellent,” said Alison Dombrowski, a college senior leading some of the group’s freshmen.
Dombrowski has volunteered in the program each of the three years it’s existed now.
“This is one of the most diverse years yet,” Dombrowski said Tuesday. “The students are all working very hard, but they’re having a blast. And you can see the smiles on all of their faces.”
For the rest of the week, the group will be painting and sorting clothes at the Angels of God Clothing Closet in Pitman, visiting residents at the Juniper Village’s assisted living facility in Williamstown, working with the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge in Newfield and preparing meals at the Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia, among other things.
Some of the students will also be participating in a white water rafting trip in West Virginia.
“So far, I think it’s been awesome,” said freshman Thomas McCourt. “Not only are you helping the community, but you’re bonding with the people you’ll be going to school with this year.”
When he first received the volunteer schedule for the week, McCourt said he was amazed at the range of activities ahead of him.
McCourt especially enjoyed working with animals at the Cumberland County shelter, intimidating as some of them may appear.
“It’s been a great experience and I definitely feel close to the group already,” McCourt said. “And while you might not see the affects of what you’re doing right away, you just know that you are helping people. There’s no greater feeling for me.”