Before most of their classmates even began packing for college, 66 members of Franklin & Marshall's Class of 2016 arrived on campus Aug. 19 to continue an F&M tradition—and serve the Lancaster community in which they'll live for the next four years.
The students did so through Putting it Together in the Community (PIT), a four-day service initiative organized annually by F&M's Ware Institute for Civic Engagement. The program, which takes place the week before New Student Orientation, helps students acclimate to life at F&M by introducing them to campus leaders, immersing them in community-service projects and encouraging them to think critically about social issues and human needs.
F&M student Chris Neuhaus '13, a psychology and Spanish double major, served as the Ware Institute's PIT planning intern for the second consecutive year after developing a passion for service through his own PIT experience in 2009. This year, Neuhaus organized a group of 16 other PIT planning assistants, all upperclass students, to mentor the first-year students.
"Hands down, doing PIT my first year was the best decision I've made at F&M," Neuhaus said. "You get to meet upperclassmen right away, and it helps you adjust to campus, learn about Lancaster and learn about F&M. I was nervous as a freshman because it was my first time away from home. Meeting other first-year students and developing a support system is a great thing to have."
This year's PIT volunteers worked with refugees in northwest Lancaster, cleared trails at Millport Conservancy, spent time getting to know senior citizens at local retirement communities and mentored students in the School District of Lancaster.
Iqra Shaikh '16 arrived on campus early for PIT after hearing so much about the program from her sister, F&M alumna Sumera Shaikh '07. The younger Shaikh sister was eager to jump into community service at F&M after participating in a high-school initiative to build a well for clean water in Uganda.
"We raised $7,000 for the well and saw pictures when it was built. I want to continue to give back to the community at F&M," said Shaikh, who played soccer and other games with refugee children in Buchanan Park in a newly launched PIT group focusing on refugees. "It's been incredible to work with these kids, who are so well-mannered. I'm having so much fun."
Lily Sands '16 joined Shaikh in the 10-member PIT group working with refugee children. After working with mentally disabled children in high school, Sands wanted to engage in community service early in her F&M career.
"The kids we're working with are fantastic," Sands said. "Even though English isn't their first language, they picked up the language as we sang songs. And they're so polite."
PIT launched as a pilot program in 1997 with 10 members of the Class of 2001. The program's size doubled the following year, and the Ware Institute has enrolled between 50 and 60 students each year since 1999.