250 students attend 17th Hands on Oshkosh

Kellie Wambold

More than 250 UW Oshkosh students went out into the Oshkosh community last Saturday for Hands on Oshkosh, a volunteer event that helps students connect with the city of Oshkosh. Hands on Oshkosh happens once every semester at UWO, and April 16 marked the 17th time students have reached out to the greater Oshkosh community through the program. “A smaller group of volunteers went out and we’ve been slowly building the program since then,” Emily Ruck, chair member of Hands on Oshkosh, said. Students volunteered at Father Carr’s Place, the Christine Ann Center, the Oshkosh Parks Department, several elementary schools and many other locations around Oshkosh. “We’ve established quite a few good relationships with agencies in Oshkosh that we see them registering for every event that we have,” Ruck said. Nicole Bellcorelli, the volunteerism program adviser for Reeve Memorial Union, said those relationships have helped foster a positive image of college students in Oshkosh. “I think it’s good to show the community that we have students here that are interested and willing to be part of the greater community and willing to give back,” Bellcorelli said. “It’s a really good partnership between the community and UWO.” Bellcorelli said Hands on Oshkosh not only provides the community with services, but also gives students a chance to become more familiar with Oshkosh and the different opportunities it provides. “I’ve had students come back and say, ‘I had no idea what [the agencies] did. I’m going to sign up and make sure I get back out there in the future,’” Bellcorelli said. UWO student Richelle Kasten cleaned classrooms for UWO Head Start during Hands on Oshkosh and said it was a great opportunity to influence the view Oshkosh has about its college residents. “It can be easy for anyone to see a college student out and about on the town or in the community and think negatively about them, but to see the faces of hundreds of college students helping within the community in the early hours of a beautiful Saturday morning can help change that perspective,” Kasten said. Jessica Fedie worked with Kasten on Saturday and said Hands on Oshkosh serves as a reminder that there is a community in Oshkosh outside of the University. “The projects we work with are so thankful for our help, and it really makes you think about how just the simple act of taking a few hours out of your day to help someone with a task can make a huge impact on them,” Fedie said. UWO student Katherine Senn, who spent Saturday cleaning up trash at Rainbow Park for the Oshkosh Parks Department, said Hands on Oshkosh is the least college students can do to repay the residents of Oshkosh. “Businesses and community members do a lot for us college students,” Senn said. “Volunteering is a way for us to give back to them and to say thank you for letting our university be here.” Senn said Hands on Oshkosh is also a chance for students to explore the Oshkosh area and realize what is available for students off campus. “Sometimes a student’s whole world narrows down to just the university campus because that is where they sleep, eat, take classes and spend a lot of their free time, but they have to realize that there is more to Oshkosh than just the University,” Senn said. Senn said getting involved with the Oshkosh community will help make the city feel more like home for students during their college years. “The volunteering that I have done has allowed me to learn a lot about the city and what it all offers and to connect with many of its residents,” Senn said. “Volunteering has helped me to feel like I belong to the Oshkosh community and am welcome here.” Kasten said there is so much for students to experience in Oshkosh and volunteering can give them just a taste of what they can do. “I feel it is important to have UWO students helping out in the community because it helps us give back to the wonderful city we are all living in for our college years,” Kasten said. “We spend so much time on campus with studies, involvement, and the like, that it can be hard to get out into the beautiful city of Oshkosh and see all the wonderful individuals and businesses that make this city what it is.”