Hundreds of Kent State alumni across the U.S. and throughout the world will share one thing in common this weekend: service.
Kent State’s Center for Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, in celebration of its 11th annual Alumni Day of Service this Saturday, April 27, has sponsored work sites and partnered with organizations both domestic and foreign to provide alumni service opportunities and commend those who’ve pursued independent service projects. This year boasts the largest turnout yet with over 800 registered alumni, said Joy Wesoloski, Kent State Alumni Relations associate director and Alumni Day of Service coordinator.
“it’s a good feeling to know that so many people want to make a difference,” she said. “Kent State alumni are making an impact not only locally, but across the world.”
Although monetary donations are important, Wesoloski said the Alumni Day of Service stands for the idea that donating time or talent can also positively impact the community. One Kent State alumnus in Texas represented just that by knitting together plastic bags to form mats designed for people without homes to sleep on.
“I think people learn a lot about themselves when they help other people,” Wesoloski said. “If you can’t do anything, giving a couple hours on a Saturday is a way to really make an impact and make a difference in your community.”
The domestic states Alumni Day of Service offers opportunities in include Ohio, Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania. Outside of those sponsored worksites, some alumni submitted independent projects like volunteering at a pet rescue, delivering food to low-income families, planning events at an assisted-living facility, helping elderly neighbors with yard work, and cleaning up lingering damage from hurricane Florence in North Carolina.
Whether your community is here in Kent, elsewhere in the U.S., or even as far away as the Middle East, opportunities are available, said Gustavo Stille, associate director of Alumni Relations’ foreign relations. Stille coordinates Alumni Day of Service worksites in Oman, Jordan, Brazil, Iraq and the Bahamas.
“Those alumni are really living and breathing representations of what the Kent State University education has to offer and the positive difference that it can make in the world,” Stille said. “Alumni Day of Service is about making a positive difference, and what better way to show the impact and the reach of our international alumni than getting them to join Alumni Day of Service?”
The service site in Iraq focuses specifically in the country’s Kurdistan region, he said, and despite news-fueled stigmas surrounding that region, Kent State’s connections there and in other countries across the Middle East and Africa remain solid enough to provide alumni volunteer opportunities not only this Saturday but periodically year-round.
“It’s kind of interesting because when you work with folks that are in areas of the world that, at least in the news, you might get the perception that it’s dangerous or unstable, they do give you that first-hand account on the ground of what the reality of the situation really is like and what’s possible and what’s not,” Stille said.
This opportunity also brings alumni in these countries together, he said. When he’s gone to Taiwan, Brazil and Oman, he said alumni are often surprised to discover so many other Kent State graduates in their area.
“I think they get excited to realize that they have more Kent State connections near them than what they initially thought,” Stille said. “But I do think that, again, it’s more of that idea of whether you are a domestic student, a U.S. citizen, or an international student, it’s just realizing that there is a world of possibilities within the Kent State networks.”
The process of coordinating opportunities and worksites has been challenging, Wesoloski said, but it’s rewarding.
“It just kind of gives you goosebumps,” Wesoloski said. “It’s cool stories, it’s exciting and you don’t know what people are doing until they tell you so it’s good to hear. It’s like a feel-good event.”
Michael Indriolo covers social services. Contact him at [email protected]