On one of their first days on campus, Franklin College students spread out to help local nonprofits and learn about the community they will spend the next few years in.

Freshmen moving onto campus for the first time this weekend fanned out to nonprofit organizations across the county and helped them with cleaning, organizing and other tasks that will make it easier for them to serve their clients.

For about 16 years, the FOCUS initiative has had first-time college students do community service work in their first few days as college students, said Doug Grant, service learning coordinator.

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The planned day allows them to learn about the community where they will attend school and to set them up for a curriculum at Franklin College that prizes community service and leadership, Grant said.

“We want them to know it will be a big part of their education at (Franklin College),” he said.

The 240 incoming freshmen were joined by about 120 faculty, staff and upperclassmen. About 26 non profit organizations were helped by the effort.

Part of the day is making sure that students make friends and become comfortable in their first few days at the college. And organizers pick the small, 26 groups meticulously, making sure they group students together who might not meet otherwise, Grant said.

“The idea is that we want them to make some new friends,” he said. “(They) are sitting in their dorm room and thinking, ‘OK, I did the right thing.”

And the students will also be making connections with nonprofit leaders in the community, which could lead to jobs and internships, he said.

Participating in the day is required of all students. Athletes who may have practice before classes start will have their practice pushed back to make sure at least their morning is spent in the day of service, Grant said.

The day has become a favorite for some upperclassmen who ask to come back year after year to help the community.

Sarah Ramon, a senior, spent her first day raking landscaping and cleaning up a home on the west side of Franklin.

Other residents approached their group and told them that their work that day was changing their view of college students, she said.

“We aren’t the stereotype that everyone thinks that we are,” Ramon said. “I just feel that college students do have those negative stereotypes. No one wants to be judged.”

Freshmen will get a better idea of what to expect of college, Ramon said. They will learn that being a college student also means helping others and bettering yourself through that activity, she said.

“You aren’t just here to help yourself, you are here to help others as well,” Ramon said.

The work that they do for nonprofit organizations is helping them serve more members of the community, said Kerri Faulkner-Hartwell, director of the ReStore of Habitat for Humanity.

College students assigned to work with ReStore cleaned and organized the back storage room, allowing nonprofit workers to move more merchandise to the show floor and raise more money for Habitat for Humanity, Faulkner-Hartwell said.

“This will help us more than words can say,” she said.

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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mkritsch@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2770.