GAMBIER — On April 6, Kenyon College hosted the 20th annual Community Service Project of the Year award reception. The award honors a project or initiative that has made a significant impact to the campus and surrounding communities.
This year, the Student Life Committee awarded an outreach initiative that featured the positive, collaborative exchange of energies between college students and 19 multiply challenged high school students of Knox County. Kenyon students Peter Frank and Kyle Whitman enlisted a dozen collegiate friends to promote interactive experiences with 18-year-old to 22-year-old disabled individuals in the Transition Mission program of the Knox County Educational Service Center.
“We started it at the beginning of [the 2008-09 school year],” said Frank, a sociology major from Boston. “We had thought about doing something like this before, but didn’t have the time. When we stopped playing soccer, we had the time. Since we all have had some previous experience working with special needs kids, we contacted Knox County [Department of Developmental Disabilities] and got hooked up with the Transition Mission class.
“We have found it to be very rewarding and also a lot of fun all around. I like the excitement and the energy they bring to the activities. They are always so happy to see us.”
“From our standpoint,” said Whitman, an economics major from Wooster, “we’ve been able to get as much out of it as they do. They have a level of energy that we didn’t expect and it’s just been fun. We also like being an active part of the Mount Vernon community.”
The students have shared personal goals and plans for future adult life while engaging in each other’s daily routines, events and activities. Activities included golf, swimming, track and field events, basketball, picnics, bell choir and adult day centers, Kenyon campus and other community tours.
“The social connections have been paramount and priceless,” said Nancy Gregg, transition coordinator for Knox County schools. “Staff and administrators have been supportive on both sides of this venture.”
Gregg said the reception was the celebration of great friendships and lasting memories.
“It also signified the departure of this year’s high school and college seniors, but plans are already in place for the ongoing reciprocity of the groups’ partnership,” she added.