Franklin Tate and the staff in the service-learning office have done it again. Somehow, they managed to send forth about 400 Warren Wilson people – in nearly two dozen groups – to work on projects at sites from eastern Buncombe County to Graham County near the Tennessee border, all part of the 2009 Service Day. They even got the weather to cooperate, despite a somewhat dire forecast that called for the day to be mostly a washout. What might be considered by some to be a logistical nightmare becomes, instead, a dream come true for community partners near and far.
“The students don’t just pitch in – they have a huge impact,” said Danny Hopkins, superintendent of the Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department, at the WNC Nature Center where four groups of transfer students were hard at work. “They’re doing a great job.”
As Hopkins spoke, about 60 students were working to clear a five-foot brush-free zone along the upper fence of the black bear habitat. With a lengthy fence line to clear, even that large number of students had plenty to keep them busy well into the afternoon.
Along with the nearby Town of Black Mountain, the City of Asheville has long been a service-learning partner of the College, both on Service Day and throughout the year. New sites this year included the Blue Ridge Parkway, where another group of transfer students removed invasive plants in ecologically sensitive areas; and the much farther flung Cheoah River in Graham County, where a group of freshmen removed invasives/exotics from areas of federally endangered plants.
Service Day, a highlight of Orientation Week each August, introduces new students – freshmen and transfer students alike – to the college’s service-learning program. Launched in the early 1960s, the program calls upon each undergraduate to contribute 100 hours of service to community over four years.