Kent State Stark students give back to local Stark Park

Kent State Stark student volunteers pose for a picture during the FYE Summer Service Project at Stark Parks on Thurs., June 29, 2017.

Mariah Helaney

Incoming freshmen at Kent State’s Stark campus gathered at Crystal Springs Trailhead in Massillon, Ohio, Thursday to garden for the fifth annual First Year Experience Summer Service Project.

In 2015, students began the project by weeding to reveal the space where a retired historic bridge was moved. Last month, more Kent State Stark students worked toward the same goal.  

Corianne Kocarek, volunteer coordinator for Stark Parks, said her hope is the students will remember the volunteer experience as a valuable tool for the future.

“I want the students to have fun giving their time to Stark Parks and hope they come back to enjoy what they have helped make,” she said.

Kristi Yerian, assistant director of FYE at Kent State Stark, said each student had the opportunity to paint rocks to be placed around the park and at the university before planting Milkweed plants and seeds under the bridge.

“I think we will make the rock painting activity a new addition to the service projects because of how positively the students responded and how great the rocks look,” Yerian said. 

As a Kent State graduate, Kocarek said she enjoys watching the students volunteer and tries to think of projects that are fun and make the students feel important.

“I hold it near and dear to my heart giving back to Kent State students and watching them work together as a team,” Kocarek said.

Lexi Ford and Lauren Dietz, incoming freshmen at Kent State, said giving back to the parks helped them meet fellow students and connect with faculty at Kent State Stark.

“I work in landscaping, so I thought this would be a fun way to use my skill,” Ford said. “I can’t wait to see our stones laid out and have people appreciate my work.”

Dietz and Ford explained they hadn’t met before the event, but now they are friends and plan to study the same major together.  

“As a commuter, this gives me a chance to jump in and get involved with the school,” Dietz said.

While most of the students were incoming freshman, current students came to help, too. Alaina Richards, a senior human development and family studies major, said she assists with the FYE summer events because she loves talking to the students and giving back to the community.

“As a part of the welcome team at Kent Stark, it gives us the chance to go outside on beautiful days like this and do activities we can be proud of,” Richards said.

Students have multiple service projects to choose from, including Habitat for Humanity Restore on July 7 and Campus Kitchen at Kent State on July 26.  

Mariah Helaney is a regionals reporter. Contact her at [email protected]