Baylor Line Camp Freshmen Support HOT Urban Gardening Coalition
Students cultivate service mindset - as well as plants - at Waco community garden locations
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Contact: Lori Fogleman, (254) 710-6275
WACO, Texas (Aug. 7, 2012) - They came to cultivate their Baylor University 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, including the thriving gardens at Lake Shore Baptist Church, Calvary Baptist Church and the Baylor campus.
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 L. 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."
Last year, Baylor Line Camps partnered with the Food Planning Task Force of McLennan County to spread the word about free meals for children through the Summer Food Service Program. 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.
Healthy gardens, healthy communities
Jonathan Bruce, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer serving with the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative and garden coordinator for the Baylor Community Garden, tended to the Baylor freshmen, opening their eyes to the connection between healthy gardens, healthy people and healthy communities.
"Students don't necessarily get the connection between gardening and hunger or gardening and diet-related diseases and health until they get out here and they start breathing the fresh air, moving their muscles and eating healthy food that maybe they wouldn't have eaten," Bruce said.
The Baylor Community Garden at Ninth and James 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.
Although Baylor freshmen spent only an hour in the gardens over six days, the collective effort was transformational. In some cases, the volunteer labor was key to helping some gardens survive. For others, it helped gardens continue to be productive year round. At the Hewitt Community Garden, freshmen cleared weeds and re-mulched walkways, tasks that would have taken regular volunteers several long workdays to complete.
"Instead, everything was done in a little over an hour with a crew of about 50 working really hard. They were excited to see the big change they made in such a short time," said Naomi Y. Scrivener, coordinator of the Hewitt Community Garden, which provides fresh produce for the Hewitt Hallelujah Food Pantry.
"Baylor University, through its Steppin' Out Days in the spring and fall and the Baylor Line Camp in the summer, has been the backbone of our major work days," Scrivener said. "Having them be a part of what we can do for our local communities is far-reaching because it is much more than an hour or so of work they provide on one day. It is helping us keep our gardens going for our community."
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. They also will have opportunities as they return in the fall 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.
For each student, it may have been just one morning of service, but organizers hope to cultivate a deeper commitment that will encourage students to give back throughout their college experience.
"It may be gardening or it may be helping out at a local elementary school or feeding the hungry at Church Under the Bridge," said Baylor Line Camp leader Liz Green, a junior political science major from San Diego. "It's really good to serve and to help someone else."
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.