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A Glimpse at SpartanServe 2023-24

November 28, 2023
Spartan Serve 2023

Written by: Nathan Leakway '25

York College President Thomas Burns stands in front of a group of volunteers on Wolf Lawn. “I hope you have a great time out in the community making a difference,” he says, his voice echoing through a small speaker. Dr. Burns’ speech marks the beginning of SpartanServe, YCP’s annual weekend of service in October, during which the YCP community engages with both the College and the City of York to facilitate various service projects around campus and town.

Scattered across Wolf Lawn are a number of students dressed in Spartan Green T-shirts. They’re holding signs, each corresponding to a different service project: “Rail Trail Cleanup” reads one, and “Community Cleanup @ Bantz Park” reads another.

Jackson Street Cleanup

Nolan Smith ‘26 holds a sign that says “Jackson Street Cleanup.” A Film and Media Arts major, he is the leader of the team that will walk up and down Jackson Street picking up trash and debris. “Some people would consider Jackson Street to be an eyesore at times,” he says.

About a dozen students accompany Nolan to Jackson, where they walk up and down the sidewalks picking up trash with gloved hands. Trash lines the block, spilling off of the sidewalks and into the street. “It’s going to look better when we’re done with it,” says James Derosa ‘24, who lives on the street. James, a Supply Chain Management major, is carrying a black trash bag that already, only two blocks away from the College, is beginning to fill with garbage. “I’m more than happy to help.”

Some of the residents of Jackson have stepped out onto their porches to watch the parade of students walk up and down the block. “Families live here,” says Nolan. “We’re just doing what we can to clean it up, make it nicer.”

Hygiene Kit Assembly

The cleanup on Jackson Street is one of many service projects taking place around the College. In the William Walker Room, located in the basement of the Student Union, students are making hygiene kits by filling ziplock bags with bar soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, and razors. This is an effort coordinated by the School of Behavioral Sciences and Education, the York YWCA, and five sororities on campus, all of which are members of the National Panhellenic Conference, a national organization dedicated to the advancement of the sorority experience on college campuses.

“We do a lot of service-based initiatives and events, so when we got the opportunity to do this, we jumped at the chance,” says Assistant Director of Student Activities and Orientation Alexis Bonamassa, who oversees Greek Life at York College and is supervising the effort. “Some of these students aren’t even a part of the [sorority] community, but they came and helped anyway.” Students from the School of Behavioral Sciences and Education will partner with the York YWCA during their November Service Week as well.

York County History Center

SpartanServe also offers YCP community members a chance to get off campus and interact with the larger York community. At the York County History Center on East Market Street, a group of five students is huddled around a stack of filing cabinets. They’re surrounded on all sides by shelves that reach to the ceiling, each filled with old, dusty books and records. The students have created an assembly line, gently wrapping the fragile artifacts—oversized ledgers, in this case—in gray paper, then tying them with twine and labeling them.

The York County History Center is currently in the midst of a massive relocation effort. The Center will be moving from its current location on West Market Street, where it has been since 1955, to the old Met-Ed Steam Plant on the corner of Philadelphia Street and Pershing Avenue. That location is currently being renovated, but the effort to move the massive collection is well underway. “We estimate it will take about two months to move the offices and the library archives,” says Adam Bentz, Assistant Director of Library and Archives, who is supervising today’s effort. “The museum artifacts are going to be moved over a longer period of time.”

Hamzah Bair ’25 is the last person in the assembly line, tasked with labeling the wrapped ledgers. “I’m pretty into history,” says the Information Technology Management major as he writes the year 1897 on the spine of one of the ledgers. To his right, the pile of ledgers that need to be prepared for moving is slowly growing smaller. “There were a lot of volunteering options,” he said. “I chose this because it sounded the most interesting.”

Church and Court Garden

Just a few blocks away, in a previously abandoned lot at the corner of Church and Court streets, Sebastian Suriel-Diaz ‘27 is digging into a different pile. He is standing in front of two large mounds of mulch, a shovel in hand, waiting for one of the other students to bring him a wheelbarrow to fill. “I wanted to make a difference in York City,” he says as he digs into the pile of mulch. “And look, we get to work outside today.”

Sebastian, a Cybersecurity Management major, gestures to the other students around him. They’ve come here to Church and Court Garden to help transform the space into a fresh food garden for the surrounding neighborhood. The project is spearheaded by Annalisa Gojmerac, who began rehabilitating the space in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gojmerac, who is in charge of numerous urban gardens around York City, spent the first few months in the lot behind Our Daily Bread emptying the place of abandoned cars, mattresses, and asbestos-laden building materials.

“York College students, they get it,” says Gojmerac. “I want them to enjoy what they’re doing, make friends with community members, and have a desire to come back and keep contributing to the community. And they do, they really do.”