New Students Dive in Through POSE
The jagged, scraping sound of metal shovels hitting asphalt signaled that the group of sun-kissed students was close to completing its noble mission. Encrusted in layers of dirt and sweat, the team had worked all day constructing raised plant beds at Front Step Farm, a once-abandoned lot recently refurbished into a thriving urban food production site.
Assisting with urban farming was just one of the many civically minded projects undertaken last week as part of RISD’s Pre-Orientation Service Experience (POSE), a four-day immersion in community outreach for incoming freshmen. Led by 10 upperclass students, the program attracted 37 willing freshmen.
“The students have been such a big help,” notes Than Wood, the young man who runs Front Step Farm. “I’m now in good shape to start planting my fall crops.”
In addition to agricultural work, POSE volunteers worked at the Providence Children’s Museum, the local arts nonprofit AS220 and Recycle-A-Bike, an organization that connects people with two-wheelers. During a visit to the Martin Luther King Elementary School on the East Side, freshmen got glittery while working with children to make silly masks, sock monsters and other fun crafts.
“The students are learning how to be leaders, more active citizens and agents for social change,” notes Andy Jacques, assistant director for leadership programs in RISD’s Center for Student Involvement (CSI). “Aside from getting the warm fuzzies, some find that volunteering is a nice change of pace. Once the semester gets going, the break from the studio allows them to explore the community beyond campus, which fuels their work as they encounter new inspirations and make new connections.”
Jackie Silva 17 FS, a new Foundation Studies student who intends to major in Graphic Design, felt at home on the farmlette, where tar-grit is wiped clean by nature’s flora and fauna. Holding a shovel overflowing with compost, the budding artist admitted she found joy in getting her hands dirty to create a sustainable agricultural system in one of the city’s most culturally vibrant neighborhoods.
“I went to a Catholic school – so I’ve been involved with service projects almost all my life,” notes Silva. “These are the types of activities that are close to my heart. I’ll be sure to continue [working with the community] throughout my time at RISD.”
Brandon Saisho 16 FD also said he felt a calm connection to the earth as he toiled to make a new outdoor bed that would nurture an assortment of organic veggies. “I grew up in Salina, California, where there are massive farms that sit on acres and acres of land,” he notes. “But instead of human workers, machines pick the crops. I’ve never done anything like this before.”
And for Saisho – now a community-oriented amateur agriculturalist – the extracurricular philanthropy has only enhanced his academic life. “It’s been really fun getting the chance to venture out past the RISD bubble,” he says. “I find that when you take on extra activities, it cultivates better time management skills. It actually forces you to prioritize projects and be effective everyday.”
– Abigail Crocker