Make A Difference Day fosters Whitman’s bonds with the Walla Walla community
By Daniel Le Ray
Photos by Matt Banderas
More than 130 volunteers from the Whitman College community gathered in the Reid Campus Center to hear Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin ’85, Executive Director of the Walla Walla YWCA, kick off this year’s Make A Difference Day.
During her time as a student at Whitman, Schwerin said, very few of her classmates left campus to engage with the local community. That has changed in the intervening years, thanks to programs like MADD, which encourages students, staff and faculty to get involved in the Walla Walla community. Since Whitman began participating in 2007, the program has grown each year.
“Make A Difference Day is a great opportunity for students to get off campus and become active members of the Walla Walla community,” said Abby Juhasz, Community Service Coordinator.
“It is also a chance to get involved in something bigger than themselves, and students often use this event as a means of learning about our community partners and getting involved in ongoing project.”
Whitman community members contributed to 14 projects across Walla Walla at locations including the Blue Mountain Humane Society, the Farmers Market, the YMCA, Sharpstein Elementary School and the Kirkman House Museum.
Molly Emmett ’15, who is resident adviser for the community service Interest house, led her group in the Kooskooskie Commons stream restoration project . This past summer's Environmental Justice and Sustainability SCORE participants helped, as well.
“By getting rid of invasive plants near the stream, it allows room for native plants to grow as riparian buffers, which shade the stream and keep the water at a cool temperature so that its natural inhabitants, especially salmon and steelhead, can live in it,” she said.
Forrest Arnold ’17, who also took part in the SCORE program at the beginning of the school year, helped Walla Walla Housing Authority employees plant some new trees while learning about local housing issues. “I really enjoyed doing work out in the dirt on that SCORE trip, and this project sounded like a great opportunity,” he said.
Emmett is a veteran, having participated in MADD since 2010. She sees the value in MADD on two fronts: “MADD is always a great chance to make new connections in Walla Walla. It was wonderful to be out at the high school and the neighboring park on a crisp morning, and it gave me the feeling of being a part of something bigger. I appreciate the chances I get to invest in Walla Walla, because it has offered so much to me these past three years.”