Students team up for NIU Cares Day

By Sophia Mullowney

DeKALB — Hundreds of students spent Saturday cleaning, painting and planting across campus during NIU Cares Day.

After convening at 8 a.m. in the Holmes Student Center’s Duke Ellington Ballroom, students departed to various locations on campus and throughout the county to undertake volunteer projects at organizations and agencies such as the Kishwaukee Family YMCA, DeKalb and Sycamore Public Libraries, Communiversity Garden and TAILS Humane Society.

Sarah Thomas, sophomore communicative disorders major, said she came out to represent Lambda Sigma, a national second-year honor society.

“I wanted to do something that would help the community and my organization,” Thomas said. “It’s great for team building.”

Jennifer Van Ewyk, assistant director for volunteerism and event coordinator, said Student Involvement and Leadership Development registered 650 students for this year’s NIU Cares Day, on track with registration from previous years.

Registration does not imply participation.

She said the annual event is a great opportunity for students to actively support the community.

“It’s a really good day for students to build a foundation and connect with the greater DeKalb community,” Van Ewyk said. “This is where students live for nine months out of the year, so we love to see that they not only find a sense of belonging on campus but also in the community they’re a part of too.”

Students weren’t the only volunteers present at the event. Jeanne Baxter, volunteer coordinator of the Alumni Association, said 40 alumni participated as well.

“It’s a cool day,” Baxter said. “It’s a unique community service opportunity involving students, faculty and staff. This is the university’s way of saying thank you to the community.”

Ken Whitney, director of culinary operations, said he’s participated in NIU Cares Day for 12 years.

Students should recognize the support offered by the community and give back, Whitney said.

“It’s good to see the community grow together like this,” he said.

Many of the student participants came to represent various campus organizations, such as the Student Association, De Mujer a Mujer and the Asian American Resource Center.

Evan Johnson, Senior finance major and event project leader, said students should consider volunteerism a vital part of the university experience.

“This is a great bonding experience for all of DeKalb,” Johnson said. “We’re all excited to be here.”