Four days after moving onto campus, new students will be kicked off as part of a Rollins tradition—SPARC Day, which stands for Service, Passion, Action, Rollins College. New students will walk or be bused to different organizations around the Winter Park and Orlando area for a day of service.
Thousands of Rollins students have experienced this orientation activity throughout the past 13 years. SPARC Day gives students and faculty members the chance to work closely with Winter Park and Orlando organizations in a day of service before they begin regular college life.
Rollins SPARC Day Intern Meredith Egan ‘20 has been working with the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE) all summer to match each Rollins College Conference (RCC) course with an interested community partner.
Egan said that she is most excited about the partnership with The Orlando Union Rescue Mission, which has been a part of SPARC Day for five years. The rescue mission offers programs for homeless families that help them live independently, in addition to providing access to food, clothing, and shelter. There will be three RCC classes there this week, and some Rollins students will be hosting a “Water Day” for the kids.
When Egan was coordinating partnerships this summer, she said, “We tried to make those connections meaningful. We want to make a connection between the themes and the academics of the RCC to what the projects need to be completed by our community partners. Our focus is always what is our community partner’s greatest need for SPARC Day.”
In addition to incoming freshmen, other Rollins community members will be putting in a few hours of service as well. Community and Office Coordinator for CLCE Sofia Macias said that alumni return to Rollins to volunteer, as well.
Some of the benefits of the day include getting to know fellow peers, having the chance to venture off campus, and getting to see what the surrounding Winter Park area looks like—which is so helpful for out-of-state or international students, said Egan.
According to Macias, the main change that has been seen over 13 years of tradition is the increase in environmental sustainability efforts. In an effort to be greener, Rollins does not print out folders of information anymore for the orientation leaders. Instead, they use an app that is updated in real time. It provides bus times and questions for reflection after the day of volunteering.
“We’ve [also] cut down on the number of buses that we’re using…and the size of them. We used to use between 25 and 30 full size Mears buses, and so we started realizing and encouraging students that are closer to walk to their sites altogether, and we’ve started using smaller buses,” said Macias.
SPARC Day is run by the CLCE office. This office also runs a successful overnight trip and volunteer program called Immersion. Courtney Howell, assistant director of CLCE, shared information on the Immersion program.
On each Immersion, there are about 12 participants, two student facilitators, and one staff facilitator. This offers an opportunity to get to know upperclassmen and people who have similar passions.
In an email distributed to the campus, CLCE said that, “Over 3,000 hours of service were completed by the 271 participants and 60 facilitators at over 30 different community organizations and nonprofits.”
In the 2017-2018 year, impact areas included housing, animal welfare, the environment, and immigration. There were 331 participants and facilitators, and in a reflective survey, 98 percent of participants said they understand why social issues exist, 95 percent said they want to be changemakers in their community, and 99 percent would recommend Immersions. The first Immersion trip this year will be a Habitat for Humanity-based trip to the Saint Petersburg from Sept. 21-23. Rollins has a strong tradition of service, offering numerous ways to get involved. This tradition will be passed on to the incoming freshmen through SPARC day. With more service opportunities being offered through the Immersion program, it is a tradition that seems likely to remain ingrained in the Rollins community.