WKU students give back through Big Red’s Blitz

Kevin Allen

Incoming students on Thursday gave back to the community that will host them during their time at WKU during the 8th Annual Big Red’s Blitz.

Big Red’s Blitz is part of the M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan program, which helps new students adjust to life on a college campus. On Thursday, M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan provided those same students the opportunity to do community service at 29 venues around Bowling Green, ranging from Habitat to Humanity to removing invasive species at Lost River Cave and Valley.

Bowling Green residents aren‘t the only ones that benefit from this experience, though, said Nashville junior Bryan Hartzell, one of the student co-chairs that helped organize Big Red‘s Blitz. For him, giving assistance to others is a reward in itself.

“The feeling that I have a purpose in this world is something that’s really important to me,” Hartzell said. “I can’t live my entire life for myself. To be able to help someone in need is one of the greatest feelings that I’ve ever felt.”

The volunteers were organized into site teams ranging in size from two to 75, and after a series of team building activities on campus they split off to their work sites.

Students worked on their projects from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., many enduring the heat while doing outdoor maintenance such as pulling weeds or spreading mulch, but there were also more social events.

Bedford senior Ashleigh Miller was the site leader to the Bowling Green Towers, where the volunteers split between yard work and playing bingo with the elderly residents.

Those kinds of meetings are just as important as the manual labor to Miller, because it both acquaints freshmen with the Bowling Green community and bridges the “town versus gown” gap between the campus and the larger community.

“It’s really important to build strong ties with our community,” she said. “I love going out and helping people we don’t usually see on campus.”

Learning what the diverse community of Bowling Green has to offer is only part of the benefit for the students. They also learn what they have in common with each other.

Taylorsville freshman Katelyn O’Grady, a volunteer at Lost River Cave and Valley, found several people with a common interest in the outdoors in her site team.

O’Grady loves the outdoors and exploring caves, which is why she and several other group members chose to go to Lost River. Although they didn’t get to go into the actual cave system, the mutual interest proved to be ample common ground for meeting people.

“It‘s really not that easy to make friends since nobody knows anybody, but now we‘re like, ‘I really want to make friends now,'” O’Grady said. “It‘s a lot easier to make friends.”

The experience of most students during the day was positive, with many expressing satisfaction in being able to give back to the community and enjoyment in learning about Bowling Green and their fellow students.

Some were already thinking about next year.

“You know what, I would like to if I have the opportunity,” Hartzell said. “A lot can happen between now and then, but I definitely would love to be a part of Big Red’s Blitz next year.”