Students become role models
When final exams finish in May, most college students are in a rush to put college life behind them for a few months. In Baldwin City, however, many Baker University students decide to stick around and make a contribution to the community. And their good work is appreciated by local officials.
"Without the students from Baker, we wouldn't be able to run the recreation center as effectively," said Monte Ezell, director of the Baldwin City Recreation Commission. "They are concession stand workers, umpires and referees. Probably more than three-fourths of our lifeguard and pool staff are Baker kids. They help out all year long, not just in the summer."
Amy Coffin, manager of Baldwin City Pool, has really enjoyed the experience of working with the recreation department.
"We get to know the people in town better than the average student does," said Coffin, a senior from Topeka. "Now everywhere we go, we see someone from town that we know."
Natalie Graves, who worked at the concession stand and the pool, was especially impressed with the impact her contribution had on the children in Baldwin.
"It really makes us have to be more aware of our actions in public," said Graves, senior from Tulsa, Okla. "We are role models now, and that's an important role to have in any community."
Two Baker baseball players who worked as umpires for the recreation center even started a baseball camp this summer. Josh White, junior from Tulsa, Okla., and Jay Denning, senior from Loveland, Colo., both decided it was time to offer a program for the children who did not have the opportunity to go to out of town camps.
Six children participated in the camp, ranging in age from 6-12. White and Denning worked with the children three hours a day for five days, practicing techniques, drills and other activities.
"I think the kids had a lot of fun," White said. "We wanted to help out and give back to the Baldwin community. We'd like to have even more kids participate next time."
The contribution made by Baker students extends beyond just the recreation center.
Senior Paul Thompson, Placentia, Calif. native, works at Baldwin High School as the assistant football coach and freshman basketball coach. The senior finds the experience to be very meaningful, he said.
"I really like working in Baldwin. It is a great place, and parents really care and get involved," Thompson said. "They want to know you, and once they do they offer such great support for you and the team."
The men of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity also had an impact on the community, but in a unique way. As a philanthropy event called the "Balance Man Project," the Sig Eps helped out at the Lawrence Humane Society. Each member visited the facility twice, and their involvement was not like typical philanthropies. They went to play with dogs.
"The dogs are kept in 4x4 cages," said Evan Ferrante, a junior from Mission. "And we could take them out to the yard to run and play at the humane society. We enjoyed that. We also took the dogs from the humane society to Petco and presented them to the customers."
The Sig Ep guys were not the only ones to have an impact on Baldwin's community. Many other Baker students were very visible around town.
Amy Kirkpatrick, a senior from Overland Park, offered her help to the community by working at the lab school and the preschool in Baldwin. As an elementary education major, the job not only allowed her to lend a helping hand to others, but also to get experience in her field.
"I liked working with the children," Kirkpatrick said. "It was a great opportunity and it also helps me get involved with parents."
Like Kirkpatrick, two other students also spent time with young people over the summer. Brandon Simpson, a senior from Kearny, Mich., and Kami Warden, a senior from Bonner Springs, both coordinated the recreation activities for Lighthouse Baptist Church's vacation Bible school.
"The Bible school had an Australian theme, because we're raising money to help a missionary in Australia," Simpson said. "We played lots of Australia-oriented games, and since the Olympics are going to be there, we had a little Olympics too."
Simpson echoes the feeling of many of the Baker students who stayed in town this summer to help out.
"It felt good to give something back," Simpson said. "And I really think we provided good role models for those kids."
Ezell certainly agrees.
"I think it's great," Ezell said. "Baldwin City definitely appreciates the contribution these young people make to the community."