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Beyond Service

Community service a key part of ONU student experience

At Ohio Northern University, community service is about more than just fulfilling service requirements or gathering résumé fodder; it’s about adding a valuable and unique piece to the student experience. In fact, community service is something many students couldn’t do without. 

This is something senior Nick Pesetsky, a marketing and creative writing major from Olmsted Falls, Ohio, knows better than anyone.

Freshman Jillian Sugden washes a window at Ada Flea Market on Main Street. Ohio Northern University students, faculty and staff volunteered for Ada Civic Engagement (ACE) Day. The annual event is a part of Ohio Northern University Welcome Weekend.“Working with other students at ONU to help the community brings out the best qualities of compassion and thrift in them and shows that, regardless of background, students at ONU share a core set of values they live by and act on,” says Pesetsky, a student volunteer leader.

And he is not alone in this way of thinking. Each year, approximately 1,500 ONU students are engaged in about 50,000 hours of community service in their college home. Why do they do it? Out of a genuine desire to make an impact.

“I realize how much Northern has done for me, and I wanted to give back in a way that was different,” says Jess Keller, a sixth-year pharmacy student from Painesville, Ohio, who teamed up with Pesetsky to organize LOVE Day, an ONU community service day in Ada each spring. “With ONU located in a small town, it is important to engage in the community and get to know people who live in the same town.”

First Lady Chris Burns-DiBiasio and President Dan DiBiasio walk through Ada along with a group of student volunteers during the 2017 Ada Community Engagement Day.The village of Ada would certainly not be the same if it weren’t for the students’ desire to leave an impact on their college home. It’s an impact felt both on and off campus.

“Student volunteers have the opportunity to be part of a greater community that extends beyond campus,” says Jennifer Lambdin, ONU director of student involvement. “Community service helps students connect to the local community and meet others. It also strengthens the sense of community on campus when students, faculty and staff members work collaboratively. Volunteers often meet fellow students beyond their academic areas.”

These endeavors support the University’s commitment to a high-impact learning environment in which education extends beyond the classrooms and labs.

“Community service can add much to a student’s college experience. For example, students often gain a sense that the world is a bigger place than they imagined and that there are a lot of different people in the world,” says the Rev. David MacDonald, ONU’s chaplain. 

Beyond the service component, students also gain competencies that will help them throughout their lives and careers, such as teamwork, leadership, networking, and interacting with students of other academic majors and organizations.

Students who are involved in community service projects develop skills that last throughout their academic and professional pursuits,” Lambdin said. “They further their communication, project-management and leadership abilities. They learn how to work toward common goals with people who have different perspectives and skills.

Ultimately, both the volunteers and those being helped benefit from these efforts, but the most important thing is the impact left behind to make a better community for everyone.