This year, for the first time, all freshmen took part in a five-day Outdoor Action or Community Action orientation program (fall athletes had their own version of the program). In early September, 521 Community Action students traveled to the Poconos, Philadelphia, and throughout New Jersey to participate in a variety of service programs. Another 702 students participated in Outdoor Action in seven states. PAW spoke with Community Action students while they were volunteering.

Photos: Beverly Schaefer

Homelessness Trenton: Strengthening Young Lives
Alex Jiang ’20, Little Falls, N.J.

How has your time in Trenton been so far? What struck me is the stark contrast between some of the neighborhoods — the wealthier neighborhood is very close to the neighborhood where drugs and prostitution are rampant. What’s your takeaway from this experience? I admire the people who reach out for help from [homeless shelters] and succeed. I heard about one girl who was packaging drugs for her parents and later graduated with a Ph.D. To have the mental fortitude to do that — I just have so much respect for people like that.

Arts Trenton: Empowering Youth Through Circus Arts
Reed Hutchinson ’20, San Francisco, Calif.

What will you remember most? The circus is the kind of environment where people can come out of their shells. I tried on five jackets at once, with an umbrella and a pirate hat. It’s been fun to just be silly and let go. Has this changed how you think about service? Sometimes we’re expected to be in a teaching role, but understanding that service can take many different forms — and actually learning from someone else — can be just as powerful.

Sustainability Princeton: Eco-Farming
Kristie Falconer ’20, Morristown, N.J.

Do you feel differently about food now? I had never seen a farm that didn’t use pesticides. It’s cool to be somewhere where they’re talking about integrated pest management and pesticides. And I learned you can eat this corn without cooking it — it’s really good! Will you do more to eat sustainably? Definitely. It’s made me appreciate farms — the food here tastes a lot better than supermarket food or imported food.

Habitat for Humanity Trenton
Jose Morales ’20, Miami, Fla.

Why did you get involved with Habitat for Humanity? I’ve seen and been around people who don’t have places to stay. So if I can do anything to help out, I feel good about that. What do you like about construction? I love doing things with my hands, and it helps to know that our work will be helping several families — we’re building seven homes right now.