Freshman orientation means cleaning up neighborhood that will become home First-year students at area colleges focus on community outreach

September 03, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Johns Hopkins University freshman Amanda Owens got an eye-opening education yesterday -- in the streets of North Baltimore.

She was one of several college kids armed with brooms and trash bags, cleaning their way through various communities and playgrounds littered with weeds, broken glass and other signs of urban decay. It was the school's way of welcoming incoming freshmen to their new neighborhood.

The cleanup extended into area streets, waterways and schools and involved about 900 first-year students, university officials said. The program, now a required part of orientation, was evidence of a trend among local colleges toward community outreach.

As young Hopkins students paraded down St. Paul Street at noon yesterday, 160 new students at the College of Notre Dame, also in North Baltimore, were touring Our Daily Bread, a downtown soup kitchen, and other service agencies to discover volunteer opportunities, a college spokeswoman said.

'Down and dirty'

"College doesn't end at the front gate," said Carol Weinberg, who directed Goucher College's community service project for new students on Monday. Her choices included harvesting food on a Hunt Valley farm that gives produce to soup kitchens or sweeping streets in downtown Baltimore.

"It gives students a chance to get down and dirty," Weinberg said.

Shuronia Jacox, principal of Margaret Brent Elementary School, observed the progress of the Johns Hopkins army in clearing the school's playground of weeds and broken glass. "Can I see the difference?" she said. "It is amazing."

For Owens, an 18-year-old freshman from Temple, Texas, the experience exposed her to grittier city life. "I didn't know neighborhoods like this existed," she said to a fellow student. "I've seen them on TV, but I've never seen so much broken glass on a kids' playground."

Large-scale project

It is the first time the private university has made community work part of its freshman orientation on such a large scale.

"We incorporated community service into orientation so they know what's out there," said Victor Lee, 21, a junior public health major from New Jersey who helped arrange the project.

Northern District police Sgt. J. W. Kincaid, who kept an eye on student volunteers, said, "It's great to see them pitching in. It's a goodwill ambassador type of thing for Johns Hopkins University."

Other volunteers during Hopkins' Freshman Service Day worked the Hampden Family Center, the Keswick Multicare Center for senior citizens, the Waverly library, a Remington church and the banks of the Jones Falls.

Brian Iacoviello, 18, of Boston attacked a patch of weeds on Calvert Street and said it was a chance for freshmen to get acquainted in their new surroundings. Also, he said, "It makes Baltimore feel more like home."

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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