Monday, August 26, 2013

The Discovery Program Begins!

The 2013-2014 school year has officially begun with the start of the Discovery Program! On Saturday new students moved onto campus early to participate in a dynamic, interactive program designed to help students transition to college through their experience and participation in advocacy, adventure, service and reflection. For these five days leading up to Welcome Week, students will be participating in various projects based on one out of four different paths of their choice. These paths are: Community Empowerment, Outdoor Exploration, Social Awareness, and Sustainable Solutions. This is the fifth year of the program and every year our students do amazing work as they begin to discover their path here at Hofstra.  We will be updating you on the activities our paths are up to daily until the final the day of the program this Wednesday. 

Outdoor Exploration is currently out camping and unable to contribute to this blog at this time while they are practicing being “unplugged” and self-reflecting, but…

At first, we did not realize how hard gutting a house would be. None of us had ever done anything similar before so this was definitely a new experience.  Three All Hands volunteers, Geoff, Abigail and Heather aided us in all ways possible. Their knowledge exceeded ours and their guidance eased the process tenfold. The woman who owned one of the homes still lived in the house while we worked. Her kind and thankful words reminded us why we are participating in the Discovery Program in the first place. We reap the benefits of this experience as a whole, although it was messy to say the least.

Hi. My name is Kilmer Merritt-Gawe. I am an incoming freshman at Hofstra University, and I have the honor of being a part of the 2013 Discovery Programs. I and fourteen other students are on the Social Awareness Path.  Today was the official start of the program, and our first experience was a seminar given by a representative from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). In the session we were presented with the tools to build better, stronger communities. Tools like the proper way to approach activism and learning the differences between and the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity. It was amazing to see and to hear the dialog that was started because of this seminar. Many of us were pushed to think in ways we normally would not. And many of us were inspired to action. After this, we had a quick, enjoyable picnic lunch, and then we were off to our next project. Our next stop was volunteering at the local Food not Bombs hand out. There we began unloading cars of foods, sorting numerous boxes, handing out much needed groceries.  For many of us, this was an eye opening experience. All of us are privileged enough to send us to a private university. Poverty at that level was only something we had heard of in conversations and read of in newspapers. It was now very real. We were seeing everything we had learned about in the earlier session being put into practice. People saw a need. People went into action. And these actions have inspired many of us to return next to volunteer again. Overall, today was a good day for us.

Today we discovered a lot. Bricks are heavy, mosquitoes are terrible, and digging holes is tough. We started out at the Garden City Bird Sanctuary, where we quickly divided into two groups of passionate, exuberant nature enthusiasts.  Unaware of the day's tasks, we trudged off to pick up sticks and dig post holes. In the blazing sun, volunteers sweat profusely while planting gardens, digging holes, and weeding acres of run-down land affected by Superstorm Sandy and vandalism. Little did we know, we would soon be off to our second location at Manor Haven. At Manor Haven the volunteers were again divided to perform even more rigorous and exciting tasks. For example: one group picked up a thousand bottle caps, one group excavated a thousand pounds of brick, and one group hammered in a thousand nails. Overall, we had a demanding yet rewarding day which allowed us to discover ourselves in a way that we never imagined possible. And we smelled.


Our first full day of activities was complete and while we were exhausted they we are still looking forward to the activities to come. Please check back tomorrow to see what we did!  


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