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Greg Feldman, Operations Manager of Short North Special Improvement District, handed out cleaning tools and provided instructions to volunteers on September 5, 2015 in Short North. Credit: Yue Wu / Lantern Reporter

Students pay it forward in arts district

As many students started their three-day weekend with a lazy and cozy Saturday morning, a group of OSU students had taken a seat on a COTA bus and headed to the Short North area, known as the art district of Columbus, to begin their voluntary community service co-sponsored by Pay It Forward and the Short North Alliance.

“We want students to kind of step outside that campus environment and get introduced to the community of the Short North and give back to their communities on their busy Saturday,” said Kayla Lowery, a third-year in psychology and service intern from Pay It Forward.

The core mission of this service trip, according to the Pay It Forward website, was helping the Short North Alliance to “clean up and help with painting at this beautiful community located very close to our campus.”

“Our normal day-to-day activities are to pick up trash, water plants (and) take care of graffiti,” said Greg Feldman, operations manager of the Short North Special Improvement District. “We are always looking for volunteers to come out.”

Even though the service trip was scheduled in the early morning, students who attended this trip felt it was meaningful.

“I think it’s definitely worth it,” Lowery said. “Every time I serve, I get just the best feeling inside. I feel like my day had a meaning today. I could have sat on my couch and watched Netflix all day, and it’s great, but ultimately, I don’t get that sense of fulfillment.”

The temperature on Saturday reached 88 F, but the heat did not impact volunteers’ passion.

“I just feel happy to know that the streets are cleaner now because of what we did today,” said Kaitlin Acton, a first-year in Korean. “I mean who else is going to do it? We need people that are willing to be volunteers like this.”

Beyond the simplicity of cleaning, the service trip allowed students to reflect on how the experience, especially interactions with the homeless community, will affect their day-to-day lives.

“People kind of pretend that the homeless people aren’t there, but they were engaging with them,” said Jordan Gunning, a first-year in history, during the reflection meeting. “I think (the trip) just dissolved the stereotype a little bit, which is cool.”

Because the Short North attracts tons of visitors every day, maintaining a decent environment is necessary.

“We like to try to make the experience in Short North as pleasurable and safe as possible,” Feldman said. “We definitely love to have (OSU students) come out.”

Students who are interested in volunteer opportunities can refer to the Pay It Forward website and the Short North website.

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