Whether you have been actively involved in Knox County for years or have never ventured far from Gambier, this information sheet will provide insight into local communities and help ensure that both you and local residents have a positive experience when you meet. Before beginning your volunteering or class project, please review this information and keep it in mind throughout your engagement activity.
You hear this all the time, but it is important to present yourself in an appropriate manner when you volunteer or work on a project. Remember, you are representing Kenyon, not just yourself. Specifics of what you should wear depend on the type of activity you are doing. For instance, if you are volunteering with young children at Head Start, it is probably better to wear non-restrictive, comfortable clothes, as you will be playing with children (likely involving crawling on the ground) and possibly chasing after them. When you go into schools, remember that students have a dress code, and you should adhere to that code as well. Here are some general rules:
• No short skirts, dresses, or shorts (typically they should be down to your knees)
• No jeans with large holes in them
• No low-cut shirts or crop tops (avoid tank tops in school or formal settings as well)
• No clothing with potentially offensive logos or writing
This will vary by person and situation, but whenever you engage with the local community, reflect on your mindset before and throughout your project or activity. Some suggestions to consider include:
• Approach engagement with humility and a focus on the community’s needs.
• Abandon stereotypes and negative assumptions.
• Respect diversity and anticipate any issues of respect, identity, power, and privilege.
• Try to think of strategies for addressing issues you may encounter.
• Avoid an othering mindset, an “us vs them” mentality or view of “those people.”
• Remember, nobody knows your story, so don’t assume you know the story of others.
• Set boundaries and keep to them. Do not visit youth outside of assisting them with coursework and be careful about exchange of information. Generally, do not engage over social media.
• Plan for your physical/emotional safety and know who to talk to if you face a problem.
Avoid using curse words or offensive language. Be respectful, and if you ever disagree with someone, maintain your composure and handle the disagreement appropriately. If you are unsure how to handle a situation or feel incapable of retaining your composure, politely excuse yourself. Speak to your supervisor or professor about the incident.
If you are unable to follow through or cannot attend a meeting or scheduled engagement activity, let your supervisor or professor know as soon as possible. Community partners have made time in their schedules for you, too, so make an effort to follow through on your commitments and be respectful and proactive when you cannot. Additionally, check in periodically with your supervisor or professor for feedback. Ask questions whenever you are uncertain about something.
Establish closure with your community partner. Remember that how you engage with them will leave an impact, and finishing your project or activity in a positive manner will make it easier for you and other Kenyon students to engage with them in the future. Some general tips include:
• Say “thank you” and mean it. If applicable, write a thank-you letter.
• Reflect on your experience.
• Be conscientious when discussing your experiences. Remember that the only stories you should share are your own. Keep any sensitive information confidential.
• Feel free to keep in touch with the community partner and approach them in the future for other service or work opportunities.
This information is provided to help you develop a better understanding of the local area and prepare for your volunteering or class projects outside Kenyon. It is an effort to inform you about a community that may be very different from your own and give you a general idea of what to expect. It should not be used to form negative assumptions about local residents. County facts from the US Census (2017) and its 2018 estimates:
• Population: 61,261
• Persons under age 18: 23 percent
• Persons age 65 and over: 17 percent
• Racial/ethnic percentages: 94 White; 1 Black; 2 Hispanic or Latino; 2 two or more races; 0.6 Asian; 0.4 American Indian or Alaska Native
• Persons in poverty: 11 percent
• Median household income (2011-2015): $51,211
• High school graduate or higher (percent of persons age 25+): 91 percent
• Bachelor’s degree or higher (percent of persons age 25+): 23 percent
• Main cities and villages: Mount Vernon, Centerburg, Danville, Fredericktown, Gambier, Howard
Data collected from www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/knoxcountyohio/PST045216.