First year and transfer students spent their first day in the Quad Cities cleaning up what will be known as home for the next nine months. On Aug. 23, over 535 new students took part in the annual tradition known as Urban Plunge, an event designed to help the students familiarize themselves with the community as well as give back before they are even given the opportunity to take from their new home.
With help from the New Student Seminar classes, St. Ambrose University students gave their service to 26 different groups around the community. The jobs included picking up trash, serving food at soup kitchens, gardening at parks and painting. After their two hours of work, students returned to campus to meet up with each other and discuss their experiences over lunch. The feedback was mostly positive, with most seeing the importance of giving back to their communities. Kayla Sanborn, SAU freshman, was not sure what to expect from the mandatory community service.
"The urban plunge was an interesting experience," Sanborn said.
Sanborn and her group headed to the downtown area where she and other freshmen picked up trash along the train tracks. While down there, they got to see a different side of the community that is often shielded away from the public, either consciously or not.
"The people we met on the streets were very nice and appreciative of what we were doing, which made the experience seem more worthwhile," Sanborn said.
Stella O'Rourke, of Campus Ministry and head of the Urban Plunge Committee, stressed to the students that they were joining a rich tradition that has taken place at St. Ambrose for the past 10 years. St. Ambrose has strong ties to the surrounding towns and wants the incoming students to realize it. With strong social justice and service, St. Ambrose wants its new students to be proud of their new neighborhood, and vice versa.
"A majority of the 530 first year students participated," O'Rourke said. "Some are going to love it, others are going to hate it. But all are going to appreciate what they have done to their community."
Sanborn was interested in more work after participating in this activity.
"I would like to check out what else there is to do in the community," she said. "Seeing how much everyone appreciated our work really made me want to volunteer more."
Not only would the students be performing a lifelong commitment to their new home, but Urban Plunge was also a great way for new students to meet their classmates before classes start.
"Urban plunge was kind of a good way to meet people," Sanborn said. "We mostly stuck with our New Student Seminar group, but it gave us a chance to get to know each other even better."
–As printed in The Buzz student newspaper