Approximately 43 percent of Blacksburg residents are at an income below the poverty level.
The Community Learning Collaborative, a part of VT Engage, is working this week to spread awareness of that fact and more about the surrounding community through a "Week of Engagement."
Beginning yesterday and running through the end of this week, there will be daily events and activities held to empower student leadership with a focus on service to Tech's neighboring communities.
Interested students may sign up at the informational booth in Squires throughout the week to be a part of events centered around poverty and hunger in the surrounding areas.
According to Wyatt Taylor, event facilitator and AmeriCorps VISTA member, students tend to be unaware of these issues and their proximity to Tech.
“At any college it’s easy to find yourself in the ‘college bubble',” Taylor said. “You’re in the Virginia Tech community, so you don’t always pay attention to what is going on outside the bubble. This week is a chance to pop your bubble and give a glimpse of how the rest of the community lives on a day to day basis.”
The week's events include things like the “Bike Blacksburg Challenge” and “Livability Dialogues.”
For instance the organized group bike ride around Blacksburg is meant to give each student a sense of the lifestyle of many Blacksburg residents by following a route and profile based off a person who has transportation difficulties in the surrounding area. The "Livability Dialogues" will give participants a sense of others' communities and a chance to reflect onttheir own by sharing stories in small groups.
Taylor has been working with VT Engage and student leaders for the past eight weeks to put this event together for the first time.
Most of those leaders have been engaged with service before, such as Analise Adams, a senior in human development and psychology.
“Service is something that really gets me passionate about things and I really love the connection you build through serving with people and for certain causes.” Adams said. “I think its really cool what can happen when you redefine service for yourself and ask ‘what does service mean to me.’ It helps you branch out and learn through what things look like in your own life.”
For the leaders involved in “Week of Engagement” service creates student connections, social justice awareness, and most importantly for this program, action. Each day's activities are geared toward challenging participants' critical thinking and ability to connect with Tech's neighbors.
"I see it as kind of our responsibility as students and members of the larger community to give back to an area that has given so much to us," said student leader Tim Duffy, a junior finance major.
Organizations such as Micah’s Backpack, The New River Valley Livability Initiative and local homeless shelters have all joined in on the fight for awareness by working with VT Engage to create the events and small projects this week.
The goal of the week is to maximize student involvement and awareness in the community with no fundraising involved.
“The whole event is centered around giving students an opportunity to put themselves out there,” Adams said. “We want people to come and get something out of it, as well as put something into it. It is important to engage students that want to be engaged because I feel like there is a need for service.” .
The Week of Engagement is for the most part a for-students, by-students event, hosting many student leadership roles and opportunities to be creative with service.
“College is more than simply class and book learning; it’s a lot more about brand new experiences,” Taylor said. “College is about getting out there and seeing things you have never seen before. There is no reason not to try to expand your borders as much as possible, and doing it through service to others.”
The weeks events: Schedule of Events:
Tuesday: Service Project at Kentland Farms 1-5pm
Wednesday: Turnip Gleaning at a Farm in Riner 1-5pm
Thursday: Built Game by the Livability Initiative 1-pm, Cardinal Room; Livability Dialogues: Service through story telling 7-9pm, 116 Burruss
Friday: Bike Blacksburg Challenge, 1-3pm
Saturday: Get on the Bus to Feeding Southwest VA, 8am-2pm
more details: http://www.engage.vt.edu/WOE/woe2012.aspx