Photo by Curt Yeomans
Boston College students Jackie Keshian (from left), Stephen Wu and Taryn LeRoy collect dead leaves that have fallen on a walking trail at the William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve on Thursday. Students from the college visited Morrow this week to perform a community service project during their spring break.
Boston college sophomore Stephen Wu could have spent his spring break at home, in Boston, or he could have gone with friends to some warm beach.
But, he wanted to spend his week off from school doing something to improve the world — so he instead came to Clayton County. Instead of playing on a beach in Cancun, Wu helped clean up flower beds, and assisted elementary school children with their homework.
“Yeah, it [going to the beach] would be relaxing for a few days, but would I actually change anything, or [do] anything worthwhile?” Wu asked. “Meanwhile, service here is helping people, and changing things, and trying to add to the community. I get a lot more out of that than just sipping a pina colada and watching the sun set.”
Wu was one of 18 Boston College students who spent the past week doing community-service projects in Morrow, through a school service organization called the Appalachia Volunteers.
This is the fourth year that Boston College students have come to Morrow to perform community-service projects through the Appalachia Volunteers. They spent their spring break this year helping clean up the William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve, volunteering at the Good Shepherd Clinic, and assisting teachers at Morrow Elementary School.
The 500-member Boston College Appalachia Volunteers organization sent 33 groups of students this year to sites along the U.S. eastern seaboard, from New York to Georgia. Tess Nicholson, a student co-leader for the group working in Morrow, said the organization also sent groups to Michigan and Ohio.
“It’s the largest student organization at Boston College,” Nicholson said. “We send out two different kinds of trips. We [the students in Morrow] are with ‘Volunteers for Communities,’ but we also send out Habitat for Humanity trips.”
Several students said their own lives have been enriched by participating in the program, and helping improve the lives of other people.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and forged connections with the different people I’ve met,” said Boston College junior Jackie Keshian. “I like the person I’ve become through community service, and I want to continue it.” She said she previously volunteered in Pennsylvania and North Carolina in past years through the Appalachia Volunteers group.
For some students, this was not their first time visiting Morrow. Taryn LeRoy, a junior at Boston College, is volunteering in Morrow for her third consecutive year, and she said she enjoys coming back every year because of the warm reception the city has shown to the college students in the past.
“I’ve just fallen in love with the community, and I think I keep coming back because I’ve formed such a strong bond to the individuals that we’ve worked with,” she said.
Team co-leader Mark Dornauer said the students volunteering in Morrow have been “taken aback” by the city’s hospitality. He said city volunteers have virtually been tripping over themselves to make the students feel welcome in the town throughout the week.
“One of the things about a community trip that sometimes makes it difficult is you don’t see the end products of the work that you do, as opposed to a Habitat for Humanity trip where you’re building a house,” Dornauer said. “Those affirmations given from the community, and just the little comments of ‘We appreciate what you do’ or ‘You help us better understand what the youth of our world can do’ really means a lot to us.”
Morrow continues to invite the Boston College students back to the city for community-service work because the city believes in the mission of the Appalachia Volunteers program, and because the groups that have visited in the city have left a positive mark on the town, according to Morrow code Enforcement Officer Marti Tracy. Tracy is the city’s liaison with the students.
“This group is very cohesive ,” she said. “They are like a single unit, although they’ve been divided into three different groups. You can always expect a good experience with Boston College students. They contribute to our community. They are hard-working, and we want to support their desire to serve.”