Good Works Walk

Walkers wait outside the First United Methodist Church on Saturday morning

Photographer: Samantha Owens

Good Works walkers

Participants of the 11th annual Good Works WALK for the homeless walk down the street Saturday. There were five different walks that participants could choose from.

Photographer: Samantha Owens

Sanders students

UC2900 students pose for a picture

Photo courtesy of: Office for Diversity and Inclusion

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Students grasp importance of giving back at Walk for the Homeless

On Saturday morning, Ohio University students joined the Athens community to participate in the Good Works Walk for the Homeless.

The event raised awareness of the issues of homelessness in Athens County while also raising money to help those in need. The walk was split into segments such as Women in Poverty, Children in Poverty and Strangers in Poverty. Participants also took part in a stimulated experience to grasp the everyday struggles of impoverished people.

For one group of students, Saturday's event was not only an opportunity to give back to the community, but it was also a chance to further their classroom education. Those students are enrolled in the course UC2900: Understanding Service Learning through Critical Thought, and have been learning about ways to impact their communities through service.

UC2900 is a new course that was first offered fall 2012. David Descutner, the interim vice provost of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and Cecil Walters, the director of the Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention (OMSAR) worked together to offer a credit-bearing course to recipients of the Templeton, Appalachian and Urban scholarships that OMSAR offers. 

The course is taught by Stephanie Sanders, assistant director in the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and is open to all students.

"UC2900 provides students with an opportunity to understand themselves through better self and social awareness; serve, connect and understand the needs of the community while establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial community partnership; and reflect on their responsibility to advance this awareness," said Sanders

The Good Works Walk for the Homeless is one out of the four events that students have the opportunity to participate in during the semester.

Templeton scholar Danielle Limon participated in Saturday's Walk for Women in Poverty.

"It was a really nice experience," she said. "People don't really think about women in poverty even though they make up half of the population. I thought it was really important to bring awareness to that."

This is her second semester in the UC2900 course and as a result, she said community service has become a more prevalent part of her life.

"It's (UC2900) made me more available for service and involvement on campus. My eyes have been opened to the needs in Athens," she said.

Another scholarship student, Matthew Friend also noted the importance of being aware of the needs that exist in Athens County.

"I've lived around the area myself and a lot of people don't think about life outside of campus," Friend said.

He said he believes that students should play a role in helping out the community around them.

"The class does a good job of getting that point across," he said.

During the semester, students hear from representatives of organizations such as Good Works, AmeriCorps, and United Campus Ministry about volunteer opportunities and reflect on their community service experiences. Students also play a vital role in brainstorming ways to further impact the community around them.

"I enjoy seeing students reflect on and connect their classroom experience with the larger context and connecting theory and praxis," said Sanders. "I hope students gain a better understanding of the reality of poverty and homelessness throughout southeastern Ohio and how it impacts children, adults and this geographical area intergenerationally."

The students have two other volunteer opportunities scheduled this semester. They will be participating in the annual O'Bleness Health System's Race for a Reason in April as well as a can food drive with United Campus Ministry.