They came to cultivate their Baylor spirit. By the time they left, they had planted deep roots not only on campus but in community gardens around their soon-to-be hometown city of Waco.
Nearly 1,600 incoming freshmen attending July's Baylor Line Camps sowed the seeds of worldwide leadership and service by partnering with the HOT Urban Gardening Coalition (HOTUGC) for this year's city-wide community service project. Despite the heat, Baylor students harvested organic vegetables, planted new crops and composted garden waste at 14 community garden locations throughout Waco.
Baylor Line Camp, the university's extended orientation program, brings incoming freshmen to campus to introduce them to Baylor's traditions and mission, including equipping students for service throughout their lifetimes, said Erin Payseur, associate director of community-based learning in Baylor's Office of Community Engagement and Service.
"We are very intentional about introducing our students to service early on and encouraging them to make it an integral part of their Baylor experience," Payseur said. "[Service] is at the core of who we are as an institution and at the heart of what we do. We care about our community. We want to give back, and we choose to give back of our time, talents and resources."
Just as vital is what happened after the digging was done. After lunch at Waco's Cameron Park, freshmen debriefed the experience with their student leaders, reflecting on what they did, what they learned and what they hope to do in the future as a result of the project. Throughout the fall, they also will have opportunities to continue that conversation, see updated pictures of the gardens and connect with additional service opportunities.
"This has been a great experience altogether. When I got here, it was welcoming, and I [found out I] love gardening, of all things. I didn't think I would actually be serving the community by gardening, but it's neat," said Alex Korkmas, an incoming freshman from The Woodlands.
This year's partnership with HOTUGC included labor in the gardens, as well as an educational session about the benefits of gardens, especially those in a community setting, so students would understand that the beds they raise and the vegetables they plant will make a tangible difference in the lives of local families.
The Baylor Community Garden at Ninth Street and James Avenue in Waco is one of 25 local school and community gardens assisted by HOTUGC. In May and June, the Baylor garden harvested about 500 pounds of organic produce -- with a cash value of nearly $5,000 -- to feed the hungry through a variety of nonprofit agencies in Waco.