Incoming Honors freshmen volunteer in local schools

Though many incoming freshmen spent the last week enjoying their last days of summer, 150 incoming Honors College students moved in early to work on service projects at local schools.

Alabama Action, started in 2001, is a student-led Honors College program designed to help incoming freshmen transition to the college move while giving back to the community.

“The Honors College is thrilled to have the opportunity for freshmen to participate in Alabama Action as a way to start their college career off on the right foot and get plugged into the Honors College before classes even begin,” Susan Alley, faculty advisor, said. “It is humbling to see how many students already consider Tuscaloosa their home and want to serve her.”

Alabama Action worked at Crestmont Elementary and Flatwoods Elementary Schools, mainly focusing on outdoor projects like landscaping and playground revamping.

“The Tuscaloosa County School System has only had one person in charge of all the grounds’ maintenance for several years now, so there were a lot of needs we were able to fill,” Alley said. “We repaired two playgrounds, repainted the libraries in both schools, and revitalized three courtyards and Crestmont Elementary and an outdoor classroom at Flatwoods Elementary.”

In addition to working to improve locals schools, the students were given a unique experience to help them transition from high school to college, as upperclassmen student leaders help familiarize them with Tuscaloosa.

“It assists the freshmen by giving them a distinct change in mindset from high school, as well as a smooth transition onto campus,” Chris Joiner, student director, said. “They now have a common experience to share with 150 different freshmen as they start their first week at UA.”

Joiner, a senior, knows firsthand the difference the program makes, in both the schools and students. As a freshmen, his Alabama Action experience “set the foundation” for his college years.

“From being an incoming freshman three years ago to a director for the program this past year, I keep coming back because I know, without a doubt, that I have made a difference,” Joiner said. “Freshmen continually report they’ve found their best friends [in] college and started their experience at the capstone on the right foot.”

Lena Oshinskie, a junior at UA, volunteered as a freshman and continues returning.

“I came back as a student leader my sophomore and junior years and think I even had more fun those years,” Oshinskie said. “I am so passionate about the opportunities that this programs provides to freshmen. “

Joiner said it is always rewarding when teachers thank them for their project work, but watching the freshmen become confident as college students is the most enjoyable part.

“The first night they are timid, shy and very nervous, but by the end of the week they are confident and ready,” he said. “It is easy to focus solely on the physical projects of Alabama Action, but it is the changes and growth seen in the students that truly matter.”

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