Warren Wilson students make a difference

From staff reports

Roughly 250 new Warren Wilson College students, along with returning students and faculty and staff members, kicked off the 2015-16 academic year with the annual Service Day, Aug. 21.

The day connects Warren Wilson College with 18 Buncombe County community partners, including school and community gardens, as well as food banks, all dedicated to addressing issues related to the regular accessibility of healthy food for all.

“Because of the emphasis that Warren Wilson College puts on service, it’s important for students to get started on it right away,” said Cathy Kramer, dean of service at Warren Wilson College. “Service Day serves as an orientation for service but also to the community. And it helps our students who are coming from outside the area learn about their new home.”

In addition to helping community partners in Buncombe County, Service Day is an introduction for incoming Warren Wilson College students – freshmen and transfer students alike – to the college’s service program launched more than half a century ago. Mei MacKenzie, a first-year student from Winston-Salem, said the commitment to service helps her connect “to the community and really understand life outside of college.”

In the last year alone, Warren Wilson College students contributed more than 58,000 hours of service to the community, a majority of which took place in Buncombe County.

“You are definitely prepared when you leave college to understand the real world and how it’s going to work and what to expect,” MacKenzie said.

Malik Walker, a first-year Warren Wilson College student from Graham, N.C., said, “I expected to come out here and do some light gardening; I wasn’t expecting to completely redo something. It keeps you kind of grounded in humble beginnings, and I enjoy working with people. So, it’s nice to have everybody out here.”

Warren Wilson College is part of a selective 8 percent of U.S. colleges and universities that received the Classification for Community Engagement from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In addition, the College was named to the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, which annually highlights colleges and universities that achieve meaningful, measurable outcomes in the communities they serve.

“I am going to learn more than I bargained for,” said Lorelei Jacobson, a first-year Warren Wilson College student from Kingman, Arizona. “You’re learning more than book smarts. You’re coming out of here ready to make change and do things for yourself.

“I knew we were going to be doing service, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. I didn’t expect it to be so fun, either.”