Hiram College

A day off from classes during the middle of the week doesn’t come often.

But the one time a year that it does – Campus Day – students at Hiram spend their time giving back.

The Campus Day tradition started May 20, 1921, when students helped with cleaning, planting and landscaping throughout campus. Traditionally, the day was a surprise for students. According to the 1953 yearbook “Spider Web,” the junior class routed “sleepy Hiramites out of bed with fire drills” at 7 a.m. and that by noon that day, “elimination  of leaves, clearing of Matty’s Pond, re-banking the athletic field and distribution of wet paint signs had given the campus a new look.”

In recent years, students have known about the day ahead of time and participated in some off-campus projects. This year, on Sept. 20, students – mainly in First Year Colloquiums – volunteered at Hiram Farm, in Hiram Village, the Renaissance Family Center in Windham and at Hiram House Camp in Moreland Hills.

Renaissance Family Center

Jasmine Marks ’12, teaching assistant for assistant professor of biomedical humanities Michael Blackie’s Colloquium, volunteered along with the students in the colloquium at the Renaissance Family Center in Windham.

The Renaissance Family Center is a nonprofit organization that keeps and enhances the quality of life for families of Windham and neighboring communities through services, stewardship of resources and shared responsibility. Students at the site did a variety of things: Some helped organize a storage room and pantry, others fixed bikes and set up an Xbox, and still others did work outside the building – moving wooden planks to create a safe playground, repainting parking lines and pulling weeds and trimming shrubs in nearby areas.

Marks said spending time out of the classroom gives students a chance to see their professors as human beings.

“My students get to see (myself) and Professor Blackie as human beings instead of figures of knowledge and power,” she said. “They got the chance to see us doing acts of kindness, even if they were small. This sets the example and helps them break down barriers and truly get to know us and grow at the same time.”

Hiram House Camp

Students in assistant professor of English Willard Greenwood’s Colloquium were among the groups volunteering at Hiram House Camp, a year-round outdoor education and recreation center  for youth, schools, churches, businesses, civic, and other organizations. They spent the day in the Equestrian Center, where they worked together to organize and stack bales of hay and to clean out several horse stalls.

Armed with a push broom, Lloyd Eshelman ’15 was an impressive asset to the class.  When the colloquium moved into the stalls to clean them, Eshelman immediately took charge of the situation, loading the waste into wheelbarrows, which were emptied outside the barn.

“The work wasn’t difficult,” Eshelman said, “because I used to help my great uncle clean out his friend’s horse stalls.”

Already accustomed to the work, Eshelman didn’t dread cleaning up after the horses like other students might have.  In fact, Eshelman said that he enjoyed the activity.

“It helps other people, so I’m happy to do it,” he said.

Eshelman also stated that it was nice to see how his peers behaved outside of class, when they weren’t working.  He was happy that he and his peers had fun while working and still managed to get the job done.

“We should have more campus days,” Eshelman said.

Hiram Farm

Throughout the day, a number of groups went to Hiram Farm, a short walk down Route 700 in Hiram Village. Hiram Farm is a community project born out of the desire to provide inspiration and meaningful work for the individual growth of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

At the farm, students in adjunct English professor Jeanne Dutton’s colloquium for first-year transfer students helped to clean out a new office at the farm. Then, students from ethics professor Doug Brattebo’s colloquium painted the rooms inside the building.  Students from other groups, such as psychology professor Acacia Parks’ colloquium, helped with weeding and other farm maintenance.

History major Sheila Henry, nursing major Nicole Pueyo and biomedical humanities major Anthony Marchi, all juniors, agreed it was a fun and rewarding time, and a great way to spend a day off from classes. All transfer students, they also noted that none of their previous schools had a day of service like Hiram’s, and that it’s something that makes the college unique.

“It was a good class bonding kind of thing,” Marchi said. “Everyone got to know each other better.”

Teaching Assistant Noah Sittler also attested to the value of Campus Day.  He stated that, while the painting got a bit difficult in a hot, enclosed building where the air quickly filled up with fumes, it was well worth it.  “I think community service is crucial for students to develop into functional, participatory adults,” Sitler said.  “Social justice is a very important to many people, and Hiram’s tradition of Campus Day helps to instill and support such values.”

More photos of Campus Day are available on Flickr.