Joining a student organization (or three!) is just another way of getting involved in Ithaca College’s bustling campus life. But for senior Melissa Stutzbach, junior Jessica Wilhelm, and sophomore Krista Robb, starting their own student service organizations means more than just making friends and logging community service hours.
Ithaca College Project Generations
Throughout her high school and college careers, senior Melissa Stutzbach spent time volunteering with senior citizens, an experience that she says inspired her to start Ithaca College Project Generations. The organization pairs IC students with local senior citizens to provide support and companionship.
“We really promote the concept of independence and aging in place, so we want the older adults to be as happy as they can be in their residence,” Stutzbach says.
About 35 volunteers visit with their senior citizen partners for one hour each week. Stutzbach says the students’ activities vary, from playing games to helping around the house or chatting over a cup of coffee.
The organization works with the Tompkins County Office for the Aging to find older adults who are interested in friending an IC student. Students are paired up based on their interests, previous experience, and accessibility to transportation.
At club meetings, volunteers reflect and share both positive and negative outcomes of their visits. Stutzbach says it’s “almost reciprocal” what both the older adults and the students take away from the experience.
“The older adults have a lot to say about life and living, and there’s a lot that they want to share,” she says. “The volunteer really gets a perspective from a different generation and hears stories of things that you’re not going to learn in your history class.”
Stutzbach says it is rewarding to hear stories about the organization’s impact on both the students and older adults.
“When we have opportunities to hear stories from volunteers and older adults, it’s pretty worthwhile,” she says. “It gets me excited and anxious to make improvements and keep working hard to keep the organization going.”
Take Back the Tap
While junior Jessica Wilhelm entered Ithaca as an exercise science major, her interest in environmental science led her to take a few classes and eventually changed majors. She picked up another interest along the way: Take Back the Tap, a national organization that advocates for the use of tap water over plastic water bottles.
This fall, Wilhelm worked with Mara Alper, a television-radio professor at the College, to start her own chapter of the organization on Ithaca’s campus.
“I want to get the word out there for people to use bottled water and that bottled water is actually safer and more affordable because you don’t have to buy the plastic water bottles,” Wilhelm says.
Junior Jessica Santos is among the 20 students involved in Take Back the Tap. She says her passion for the environment led her to sign up.
“Plastic is made so that it takes thousands of years to dissolve out of the earth’s system," she says. "That is one huge reason why people should use reusable bottles. Also, it’s silly to buy bottled water when you can get it out of the tap.”
One of the organization’s biggest events planned for this year is its water taste test on Nov. 31 in Campus Center. Club members will ask students passing by to taste Poland Spring, Aquafina, and tap water to see if they can taste a difference between the liquids.
In the future, Wilhelm hopes to spread the message of Take Back the Tap beyond IC’s campus.
“[I’d like to] branch out from Ithaca College and collaborate with Cornell’s Take Back the Tap and get some sort of collaborative effort together where we can promote the idea on a grander scale,” she says.
IC Supports Our Heroes
For sophomore Krista Robb, finding the inspiration to start IC Supports Our Heroes, a student organization that sends cards, letters, and care packages to overseas troops, was easy.
“My whole family is in the military,” she says. “My mom, dad, step-dad, step-brother, and my fiancé.”
Every other Tuesday, the organization meets to write letters, create cards, and build care packages. The gifts from home are sent overseas through two different organizations, Dear Marine and Operation Write Home.
Sophomore Cindy Alvarado, vice president of the organization, says the group’s meetings typically begin with members sitting in a circle, making introductions, and telling stories of their ties to the military.
“We put on patriotic music, and it just feels like a community of friends getting together to do something fun, creative, and that helps the soldiers,” Alvarado says.
Not all of the club’s members have family or friends overseas.
“Quite a few of them know someone in the military,” Robb says. “There’s a few who have no ties and just want to help out.”
Alvarado says the organization hopes to expand its presence on campus by hosting a 1950s United Service Organizations-inspired dance, complete with a live jazz band and performers.
Robb says it is rewarding to see the club members put strong effort into the letters and cards.
“It just shows how much they support someone that they don’t even know because they’re fighting for our freedom,” she says.
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