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Wednesday, March 21,2012

Wright State students spend break helping out in Athens area

By Terry Smith
Photo Credits: File photo.
Photo Caption: Athens County Public Library Assistant Director James Hill, right, hands Wright State sophomore Samantha Olsen a stack of books to be moved to a different section of the Athens branch library.

During a week when the vast majority of Ohio University students hightailed it out of Athens for spring break, a group of college students from another institution picked our county as their spring break destination.

But they didn't come here for recreation. Rather, the group of 15 students and three faculty members from Wright State University in Dayton came to Athens County as part of a public-service work retreat. The project has been coordinated with the Good Works homeless shelter in Athens, which also has served as host during the six-day project.

Since last Friday, the Wright State volunteers have been working on a great variety of public-service projects in Athens County and the surrounding region, among them trail construction, agricultural initiatives and Good Works' Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, as well as doing a variety of mainly outdoor work with Green Edge Gardens in Amesville, the Monday Creek Restoration Project in New Straitsville, Rural Action, local churches and the village of Glouster.

During the jobs, the students and their team leaders have been matched up with Good Works Transformation Station volunteers, individuals who have struggled with poverty but volunteer at Good Works in order to acquire resources they need, such as bicycles, food or appliances.

One of the Wright State team's projects that Athens residents are most likely to see the fruits of involves the complete shifting of the adult book section at the Athens Public Library.

According to Lauren Miller, director of Athens County Public Libraries, four of the Wright State student volunteers helped with the project Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Once the "major move" has been completed, she said, the Athens library's adult books will be organized in a much simpler and easy-to-find manner. The books will still be located in the older section of the library but will be organized more intuitively. Some books will also be weeded out during the process, she said.

Miller praised the Wright State public-service program for considering Athens County for its spring break project. "It's awesome that they contacted Athens County," she said.

One of the three team leaders, Sarah Twill, a professor of social work at Wright State, explained Tuesday that this is the third year that her college set up a work retreat during spring break.

Twill said that she and two other Wright State faculty members teach an honors course on social and environmental sustainability in the region, and felt that Athens County was a "good match" for the project.

The daily schedule for the work team split the students and leaders into small teams to work on different projects, though they all rendezvoused at Good Works' Hanna House, just outside of Athens, each evening for dinner, a speaker and gathering. "Lights out" was set at 11 each night.

Asked how college students on spring break felt about a nightly curfew, Twill laughed and responded, "They're so tired they're going to be pretty willingly."

Some of the projects have been "back-breaking," she acknowledged, citing some of the trail restoration work in particular.


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