Community Outreach Team makes a difference in Washington

Created: May 8, 2018
Last Updated: January 13, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (May 8, 2018)—At Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), students are always looking for ways to contribute to the world around them.

Many of these dedicated students are chosen to serve on the Community Outreach Team, an initiative based in the Office of Community Engagement that puts students in internships and similar experiences with community service organizations throughout Washington. This year, 19 students have partnered with 18 organizations in a variety of focus areas and act as program coordinators with these agencies, performing tasks including, but not limited to: volunteer recruitment, educational program development or facilitation, and media and communication support.

Sydney Kightlinger ’21 joined the Community Outreach Team after she spearheaded a supply drive for hurricane relief in Texas following Hurricane Harvey. She is currently working with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, where she’s organized events for the mentors and children in the program and helped plan and execute fundraising efforts that brought in more than $5,000 to the organization.

“My experience has been phenomenal. There is a lot of love and support in the community,” Sydney said. “Washington reminds me of my home, Crawford County, so I hope I can help make a lasting and sustainable impact here.”

While Sydney has been putting in her time with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Grace Abror ’20 worked with the Common Ground Teen Center, recruiting and scheduling tutors for middle and high school students who come to the center. She’s currently taken on a new role with the Teen Center as a supervisor and recruiter for part-time staff.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute working with the Common Ground Teen Center,” Grace said. “Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski, who runs the Teen Center, is a wonderful woman, so I’m grateful to be working so closely with her. The work that we are doing with teens has a clear impact on the community, and I’m glad I get to be a part of it.”

Dr. Podgurski, an adjunct professor of Education at W&J, said Grace has been a wonderful asset to the Teen Center and has enjoyed working with her.

“To say I’m pleased is inadequate,” she said of Grace’s work. “She has somehow connected with these kids of all different backgrounds. She has the ability to cut across all of that and every single one of these kids identifies her as a role model.”

The volunteers’ work is appreciated throughout the community. At Blueprints, an agency that provides community education to help families and individuals improve their lives, help from students (including current student partner Caitlynn Becker ’21) has been a big part of the organization’s outreach.

“We chose to partner with W&J and the Community Outreach Team because their mission and ours is the same,” said Crystal Rivera, a supervisor with Blueprints. “We both strive to improve the quality of our community one life at a time. My hope is to continue to have this working relationship for years to come. The students receive hands-on experience and learning tools from us, and our youth gain a wealth of knowledge and skill sets.”

The students will tell you they’ve gained just as much as they’ve given through their involvement with the team. Hannah Cristofano ’19 has spent the year working with Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania and has developed a passion for legal advocacy and serving the community. She encourages other students to explore their interests while helping others.

“I think it’s important for us to be involved in the community because it gives a different perspective to students about what actually goes on when we step outside the campus bubble,” Hannah said. “The community gives so much back to us; there’s no reason why we can’t all be involved to make Washington a better place.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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