Troy Record 10/1/23 “RPI’s Alpha Phi Omega puts on Service Day event for students to help community”
TROY, N.Y. —Over the weekend, students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) went out into the community for RPI Service Day. The event is put on by the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) chapter, Epsilon Zeta, on RPI’s campus and the event’s goal is to connect RPI students with organizations in the community to help make a difference.
This year’s event was the fourth annual Service Day, and about 110 students signed up to volunteer at sights around the Capital Region. These sites included the Sanctuary for Independent Media and Frear Park in Troy, Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands, Northern Rivers Family of Services in Schenectady as well as card-making for soldiers at an on-campus location.
RPI Service Day is the first big event post recruitment for APO and is the big public event for the semester, drawing out both members from the club as well as not to volunteer. Chapter President Rafael Cenzano, a junior studying computer science at RPI, shared that it is open to everyone and that APO tries to get the word out to as many people as possible to participate.
“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone go off to the events and being able to make an impact on these organizations that we are going to and have been going to for a while,” Cenzano said. “The chapter is 76 years old and has been involved in service the entire duration.”
The students were transported by bus out to their volunteer sites where they met local organizers and leaders who gave them instructions on who they would be helping out. At one site, the Sanctuary for Independent Media, students were able to assist with painting, administrative duties, and helping to set up for the fall season as they got ready to start welcoming people back indoors for events. APO has been working with the Sanctuary and both the students and the Sanctuary staff were excited to get to interact on Saturday.
“I think it’s really great for a lot of reasons,” Executive Director for the Sanctuary KP Holler shared. “On a personal note, I started my career based on an experience I had as a volunteer and as an intern, so for the students, I think it’s a great opportunity for them to see what actually exists in the town surrounding RPI, what connections they can make and what might be here for them after they graduate or to even enrich their experience while they are in school.”
“For us, it’s opening what we do up to a broader network because some of these students from RPI may be local and have connections to the local communities, but some may not so you can open their eyes – maybe they become more involved and suddenly their whole network is more in the know because they are going to be talking about what they are doing and may cause our reach to go into other states or countries beyond what we could do with our staff.”
These communities, no matter how long APO has been working with them, truly appreciate being involved and included in RPI Service Day. The connections between the students, organization, and the service sites aren’t something that goes away after the day is concluded though, it is something that is continuously built upon with beautiful relationships and work growing from the combined effort.
“We have a lot of involvement with RPI students, several of our co-founders have been professors at RPI and have been connected. Many of our staff are RPI graduates,” Holler said. “We do have a great connection with RPI students and are always looking for a way to deepen that and for those connections to last beyond graduation. It’s always lovely to have someone who was here as an intern come back as a staff member or a visiting artist residency.”
The good work that APO and other students do does not go unnoticed by the administration at RPI. Travis Apgar, associate vice president for Student Life and Dean of Students, attended the Day of Service and was very impressed with the effort the students were putting in and was excited to see the students in action.
“I’m so proud of our students every day, these are amazing people and this is a great source of pride,” Apgar shared. “We didn’t tell them to do this, this isn’t in our plan or anything, and so it really makes it that much more meaningful that this is something that drives these students.”
Apgar was also excited to speak to these community organizations as we went around on Saturday to see how RPI as a university can continue to make sure they are giving to the community and continue to strengthen that relationship between the school and the capital region.
“When we go off to college, be it another city, another state, another country, we don’t always take the time when we are there to realize just how much the community has contributed to the impact it has on us as students,” Apgar said. “I think this is a great opportunity to give back but also to understand what is happening in the community. Troy and the Capital Region have become so vibrant in the last decade and these students benefit from that. The give back is really special.”
APO has many other events planned throughout the semester, and while it is a service-based co-ed organization they do other great things to give back to their campus. Be it a campus lost and found they operate out of an office in the Union Building, a loan a charger program, or even a backtest program where RPI students can donate old tests that others can then utilize while studying for their class – the organization finds multiple ways to give back.
Be it a student who volunteers or a site that was helped out, the RPI service day made connections and spawned good – and it is for sure an event that RPI and the community will look forward to next year.