Giving 'Back to the Boro'
Nearly 900 students join together to help Glassboro neighbors.
It wasn’t trauma surgery. But that was just fine with Rowan University sophomore Kelsey Opalack.
Using the same care, precision and attention to detail that she intends to exhibit in her future profession, Opalack meticulously painted a men’s rest room door sky blue at Glassboro’s East New Street Park.
The aspiring trauma physician, a biological science major, wasn’t alone in her work—on the door, at the park, or in the Borough of Glassboro.
As part of “Back to the Boro,” an annual event organized by Rowan’s Student Government Association (SGA), nearly 900—nine hundred—Rowan students volunteered four hours on a Sunday morning on a host of projects to assist borough residents.
Weeding, raking, painting, piano moving
They pulled weeds. They raked. They mulched. They picked up trash. They built swing sets. They painted fences. They set up lawn furniture. They flipped a mattress. They even moved a piano.
Student participation in “Back to the Boro” more than tripled this year over last, according to Natalie Serrano, director of special events for SGA.
“The number of volunteers this year demonstrates that Rowan students are extremely thankful for Glassboro residents and the unwavering support they give us every day,” Serrano says.
“‘Back to the Boro’ is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our Glassboro neighbors. Students do care about the community and they do want to get involved when they know opportunities like this exist.”
At the park, Opalack and fellow members of Rowan’s Pre-Health and Pre-Allied Health Clubs—a merry band of aspiring physicians, pharmacists, dentists, nurses and physical therapists—made quick work of painting, weeding and clean-up. Though most live on Rowan’s campus, the majority didn’t even know the picturesque park existed before they received their volunteer assignments.
“When we turned in, I thought, ‘There’s a park here? It’s beautiful,’” said Opalack, an Honors student as she watched another group of students paint the women’s room door bubblegum pink.
“There’s a little competition right now between the men’s and women’s bathrooms. They don’t think we’re doing it pretty enough.”
There was a reason for that. Sophomore Giovanni Vinci, a health promotion and fitness management major and aspiring physical therapist, works as a painter each summer. He was, as they say, representing as he painted that door—a droplet of pink paint under his eye a testament to his work ethic. The students’ volunteer work matters, he said.
“We’re in the community all the time,” said Vinci, who regularly donates blood and runs benefit 5K races. “We might as well work to help make it prettier.”
‘Power in numbers’
Across town, six mechanical engineering majors joined forces to help homeowner Carl Schopfer tackle an area of his backyard that was overgrown with weeds, vines and untended shrubbery.
As Schopfer pruned an evergreen, the students uprooted trees, yanked down vines, and tore up a large section of the yard, leveling it off.
“There’s power in numbers,” said junior James Rycek, a first-time “Back to the Boro” volunteer. The students, he said, frequently collaborate on engineering projects and already are a good team.
“We’re banding together and taking out aggression on the weeds,” he said. “I’ve worked with these guys before. They’re very hard workers.”
Schopfer appreciated the students’ support.
“Do you see that pile there?” he said, pointing to a five-foot-high mountain of brush. “They’ve done more work in a couple of hours than I could have done in a couple of months.”
“Back to the Boro” involved 50 different projects that included assisting homeowners, working in parks, helping at the Boys and Girls Club and cleaning up whole blocks across the 9.2-square-mile borough.