Incoming freshmen reflect on service projects

Students volunteer their time and give back to local community

Written By Luke Mongelli, For The Globe

In the waning days of the Pioneer Experience, the freshmen class of 2023 were given various service project assignments aimed at giving back to Point Park and the surrounding community. What started as a day of students milling around campus quickly turned into an eye-opening day filled with volunteer work.

On Saturday, Aug. 24, freshmen from every major went to their predetermined meeting points and learned about the task they would be completing. One of the projects had students working with the local Christian organization The L.I.V.I.N.G. or Love Initiated Ventures Investing In Neglected Groups  Ministry. L.I.V.I.NG. travels to different homeless settlements in Pittsburgh and serves disadvantaged communities.

Emily Barkhimer, a freshman journalism major, was one of many chosen for this project.

“The project was not what I expected,” Barkhimer said. “I thought we were maybe going to a homeless shelter and serving food or cleaning up there. Whenever we got to the actual camp though, I was completely caught off guard, because I have never seen anything like that before.”

The camp that Barkhimer worked at is located in the South Side of Pittsburgh. Barkhimer stated that one of L.I.V.I.N.G.’s priorities is the safety of their volunteers. She also described the general terrain of the area where she and the other volunteers worked: 

“It was on a hill, so we walked down with a rope, and it was right next to a set of train tracks,” Birkhimer said. “There was not a lot of people there, or at least I didn’t see any.”

For the next two hours, Birkhimer and her group removed trash and other hazards out of the camp.

“There were all sorts of things, like bottles of urine, there were some heroin needles, and whole tents that people had thrown away. There was anything that these people used to survive out there,” said Birkhimer.

She also added that some were hesitant to start cleaning, even herself.

“It was a huge culture shock to everyone,” Birkhimer said. “None of us have seen anything like this, but I told myself that I was here to help people so I’m going to do it.”

After the campsite was cleaned up, students were met with presentations from  L.I.V.I.N.G. Ministry on what else they do to help out the less fortunate in the local community.

“As shocking as it was, I’m really glad I did it because I didn’t realize how severe this situation was in Pittsburgh. But now that I understand how it is, I realize that there is a problem, and these people need help. I’m really glad I got the chance to make a difference in these people’s lives,”  Birkhimer said.

While some students’ experiences were more hands-on, others’ service projects were more centered around indirect community aid. Freshman Graphic Design major Lucas Murphy was given the assignment to report to the Student Center early in the morning for Campus Cursive. Their objective: give students and faculty small pieces of anonymous encouragement to get them through the day.

“We sat down, they told us to write on small index cards. It could be anything we wanted, whether it was a simple ‘you can do this’ or a longer message,” Murphy said.

They were also given instructions to write to an organization or service on campus. Murphy and the rest of the students then proceeded to leave these little notes all around campus.

“I chose to write to the Campus Police Department, thanking them for their service to us, and for keeping us safe,” said Murphy. “I had a great time and made some pretty awesome friends throughout this service project. Even though we can’t see the impact first-hand, I still feel as if I did a great service to my campus and community. Overall a very rewarding process.”

These community service projects would not have gone as smoothly as they did if it wasn’t for the help from the many Pioneer Ambassadors that led the way. PA Kyle Anderson oversaw  transport for a service project in Oakland.

“So I was the leader for the Thriftsburgh Service Project,” Anderson said. “The freshman groups that I led throughout the day had incredible energy and seemed to be enjoying helping out the community.”

The University of Thriftsburgh is a student-run thrift store on The University of Pittsburgh’s Campus in Oakland. Anderson said he was grateful to his team of fellow ambassadors who made the event possible and felt very positive about the event’s ultimate impact on incoming students.

“The entire experience for me was eye-opening. To see how many people we had was incredible,” Anderson said. “We had freshman and Pioneer Ambassadors all over Pittsburgh to help create a better environment for the city and building a greater knowledge on how much of a community Pittsburgh truly is. This is a great way to show incoming freshmen how small and connected our big city can be.”