For 22 years, River Campus freshmen have spent one of their first days of college helping out in various local community service projects as part of UR’s annual Wilson Day. Up until 2006, Eastman School of Music students also participated in the event, but scheduling conflicts eventually forced Eastman to stop its involvement in Wilson Day.

Last spring, however, ESM junior Garrett Rubin proposed the idea of revitalizing the community service component of Eastman’s orientation schedule. According to Rubin, the idea was met with support and enthusiasm from faculty and students, and the George Eastman Day of Service was born.

“I felt that a program of this nature was a crucial part of orientation,” Rubin said. “It seemed to me that without it, the school was losing an important opportunity to set a tone of volunteerism and community engagement from day one of an Eastman student’s career.”

Because of differences in the academic calendars of the River Campus and ESM, it is unlikely that Eastman Day will ever re-combine with Wilson Day. This setup may prove more beneficial to ESM however, as it allows the school to tailor a day of community service around its unique campus of students.

Rubin admits that he did feel a certain amount of pressure about the program’s success. In the end, however, he says that the results of the Eastman Day of Service were overwhelmingly positive.

Around 200 volunteers participated in the event on Friday, Aug. 26, including new students, faculty and staff members. The event kicked off with speeches from Rubin and UR Vice President Paul Burgett, who spoke about the impact musicians can have beyond their instruments, before the students went to get their hands dirty.

The largest project — taken on by 30 ESM freshmen — was grooming and beautifying the Genesee River bicycle trail near St. Monica’s Church.

Other service projects included painting at the Monroe County YMCA, sorting and organizing food to be given away by Foodlink, work on and around the Writers and Books building and the construction of cold frames to protect the garden at the MLK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.

In total, Eastman freshmen took on 15 service projects around Rochester. Rubin personally checked in on each site throughout the day.

“It was an extremely rewarding experience for me to see Eastman students engaging in such a diverse and meaningful spectrum of community projects,” he said.

Rubin says that his primary motive behind creating the Eastman Day of Service was to prevent a syndrome that he claims most Rochester-area college students are afflicted by: “Rochesterphobia.” He said that many students are unaware of what the city has to offer, and the hope was that getting ESM students working in the community again would generate some excitement about Rochester.

“Luckily, now, more than ever, it seems that young people’s opinions about the city are changing,” Rubin said. “It was my hope that the George Eastman Day of Service would expose students to this city and break the walls of the campus bubble.”

Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.

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