Carleton Students to Go “Into the Streets”

Unlike their earlier predecessors, this year’s first-year Carleton College students won’t be thrown into Lyman Lakes, paddled for walking on the grass, or “bounced” for offending a group of sophomores. Their first week at Carleton, however, still brings its share of sweat, mosquito bites and physical labor. During New Student Week, the incoming students participate in “Into the Streets,” a program designed to give them a taste of community service at Carleton.

23 August 2000 Posted In:

Unlike their earlier predecessors, this year’s first-year Carleton College students won’t be thrown into Lyman Lakes, paddled for walking on the grass, or “bounced” for offending a group of sophomores. Their first week at Carleton, however, still brings its share of sweat, mosquito bites and physical labor. During New Student Week, the incoming students participate in “Into the Streets,” a program designed to give them a taste of community service at Carleton.

This year, on Saturday, Sept. 9, students will participate in a variety of service projects in Rice County. The projects include restoring contaminated areas at the River Bend Nature Center, cleaning fire pits at the Cannon River Wilderness Area, scraping and painting a gazebo at North Alexander Park, performing yard work and participating in activities with senior residents at the Alterra Sterling House, and completing landscaping chores at the Realife Cooperative.

About 400 members of the incoming class elect to participate in the half-day event. Upperclass Carleton students who serve as orienation leaders to the new students lead the event.

The goals of the program are tri-fold: program administrators hope that participation in “Into the Streets” will promote unity and friendship among first-year students, introduce students to the importance and range of service opportunities at Carleton, and provide needed assistance to important community organizations. Lissa Staples, coordinator of Acting in the Community Together (ACT), Carleton’s student service organization, emphasized the communal aspect of the program. “It’s the one time that the whole class is doing something together,” she said.

During the 11 years Carleton has offered “Into the Streets,” the program has changed to meet its goals more effectively. The number of work sites for the students has grown smaller to add an element of commonality to the experience. For the first seven years, new students participated in service projects at up to 55 volunteer sites around Rice and Dakota Counties. The past four years, however, most students have worked at the River Bend Nature Center, removing trash from the river, maintaining trails and disposing of a huge pile of rusty cans.

Program organizers have also added time for students to discuss the experience with fellow classmates after the work is completed. “Reflection is a critical element of service,” Staples noted. “This service day is often buggy, hot, not ideal. We’ve added discussion time so that students can debrief and share the joys and frustrations that are inevitably a part of the experience.”

Carleton senior Becky Jensen, who participated in the program as a first-year student, has led students on the “Into the Streets” program for the past two years. Last year, Jensen said, she realized that the program went beyond typical “getting to know you” activities offered during New Student Week. “I finally understood why standing knee deep in the swamp and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes was important,” she explained. “Being there wasn’t just to help the freshmen bond and learn a little about community service; it was also about giving back to the community and feeling a tie to the environment outside of Carleton.”

Gregg Wright, executive director of the River Bend Nature Center, agreed. “There’s no question that having Carleton students has allowed us to accomplish projects that we could only dream of accomplishing without them,” he said. Wright noted that the combined efforts of over 400 students can complete – in just a few hours – projects that would normally take months for smaller crews. “It’s amazing what 400 pairs of hands can accomplish in a couple hours,” he said.

Between 60 and 80 percent of students go on to volunteer during their four years at Carleton. Staples attributes the high rate of student involvement to the success of the New Student Week program.'”Into the Streets’ sends a message that service is an important part of Carleton’s culture,” she said.