Whitman College's Student Engagement Center kicked off its fifth SCORE (Summer Community OutReach Excursion) program last week. More than 30 first-year students opted to join the program, which this year includes three group trips within the Walla Walla community, each designed to help new Whitties engage with social issues, meet local organizations and leaders and form bonds with their fellow first years before their official orientation begins.
The value of bringing students into both the Walla Walla and Whitman communities early has become clear in the five years since the program's inception. "We've seen that students who participate in the SCORE program often have a deep commitment to service while they are at Whitman," said Noah Leavitt, assistant dean for student engagement. "Many also make great strides in exploring possible professional realms as a result of their connections to local organizations or leaders."
Whitman was named one of the top liberal arts colleges nationwide in a recent ranking by Washington Monthly, with one of the criteria being the extent to which students give back to their communities. Paige Organick '17 cited this community spirit as something that appealed to her: "I really like digging in the dirt and feeling like I'm doing something to give back to any community - it doesn't have to be my community - and I'm really into environmental science, so I thought this would be perfect for me." Other students like Eric Hsu '17 saw SCORE as an opportunity to embrace this for the first time: "I really haven't been that active in my community before. I felt like this was the perfect opportunity not only to forward my own learning, but also to make a difference."
SCORE has also proven to be a powerful way for incoming students to connect to the unique region where Whitman is located. When students engage critically with the community through visiting local farms or working at soup kitchens, they learn that their college experiences do not have to be limited to the confines of campus. First year Dalton Cooper '17 came to Whitman from Rochester, N.Y. "I feel like I've been here for a month," he said. "They've really done a great job of making us feel like we've known each other for a long time, and making us feel like we've been at Whitman and in Walla Walla for a long time."
This year's SCORE trips run until Aug. 29 and focus on Conservation and Environmental Justice, Housing and Homelessness, and Food and Hunger. See more photos from the trips on Whitman's Flickr account, and find out more about the SCORE program and other Student Engagement Center programs here.
August 28, 2013