Ten first-year students in blue T-shirts and gardening gloves milled about the gardens of the Humane League of Lancaster County, trimming away weeds. It was the final day of Putting it Together in the Community (PIT), a pre-orientation program at Franklin & Marshall College.
The program encourages first-years to arrive on campus a few days early, said Ann Hughes, director of the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement, and Teri Mueller, assistant director. This year, a record 75 first-years launched their academic year through service.
“I’ve cried every day so far,” one student said. “It’s so inspiring to hear how these Lancaster organizations work to serve the community.” “I’ve cried every day, too,” said another, laughing, “but it’s because I’m homesick!”
While homesickness is inevitable amongst many first-year college students, PIT helps with constant activity and deep bonding. For three days, the first-years, often referred to as ‘PITers,’ were split into groups led by 16 volunteer upperclassmen. They worked with 24 community partners focused on youth development, community development, animal advocacy, arts and culture, homelessness, hunger and poverty, public health, and the environment.
“Not every partner is located in the City of Lancaster,” said Hughes. “Some take our students outside the city to organizations that serve Lancaster residents.”
PITer Kim Fermano, from Blackwood, N.J., is a member of the PIT animal advocacy group. She visited the Leg Up Farm, a non-profit therapy center in York County. “If it weren’t for the PIT program, we would never have known about these places," she said. "I loved seeing how passionate everyone who works here is. It made us feel good about being here.”
Hughes and Mueller hope that the exposure to different community partners will encourage first-years and upperclassmen to continue volunteering throughout the academic year.
“PIT stands for ‘Putting It Together in the Community,’ and not just the Lancaster community, but the community here on our campus,” said senior and PIT planning intern Becca Jacoby, of Sharon, Mass.
"Being a PITer as a first-year gave me a community that has only continued to grow," Jacoby said. "I am insanely thankful for that.”
“We got so close to our PIT group in no time at all, and we feel like a family," said first-year Casey Stillman, of Westchester, N.Y.. Fellow PITer Sierra Goodridge, of Oakland, Maine, agreed, “We realize we have a lot in common even though we’re different people.”
Lauren Matt, a senior PIT advisor from Lafayette Hill, Pa., said of PIT, “As a PITer, it made me so excited to be at F&M and set me up for a successful year. As a senior, it reminds me of what I learned my freshman year.”