Oklahoma State University students and Stillwater residents connected through a day of service on Saturday, Nov. 7.
A branch of the Student Government Association and sponsored by Phillips 66, Into the Streets is a once-a-semester event where OSU students scatter across Stillwater to help community members who submitted requests for assistance with household or yard chores. This year, about 1,800 students participated in almost 200 job sites across town.
Zane Pedersen, Into the Streets’ awareness executive, said the volunteer event bridges generational gaps and serves as a catalyst for relationships and memories that last far beyond the service event.
“It’s a way to share love and passion with the Payne County community,” Pedersen said. “It’s so exciting to see [the residents’] eyes light up with passion as they share wisdom and knowledge from their life. I’ve never been to a service event where everyone came out so happy.”
The benefit is mutual with students receiving just as much encouragement and gain from the interactions. Audrey Self, an event committee member and participant for six semesters, said the day always has a special impact on her.
“The people we serve have really taught me what it’s like to be appreciative of others and work alongside others,” Self said. “They’ve taught me to ask for help. It’s made me realize that everyone has a story, and life isn’t just about what’s going on for me.”
Concern over the COVID-19 pandemic and residents’ safety almost caused executives to cancel Into the Streets this year. They carefully deliberated for months and created a plan to keep everyone safe while still providing a meaningful experience.
“We still think that regardless of having to be six feet apart and wearing a mask that the feeling of being outside doing a familiar task before COVID will be a comforting experience for people and remind them that life continues,” Pedersen said. “You can live a normal life while still protecting those around you and yourself. These people maybe haven’t left their house for eight months, and just seeing people in their backyard might be emotional and even more meaningful for some.”
Self said the precautions made her feel comfortable and reminded her of what it means to be an OSU student.
“[Into the Streets] did a great job of making safety precautions — not more rules, but a standard,” she said. “This is who we are. At Oklahoma State, we want to care for people and this is how we’re going to do it: by making these people feel safe and served this weekend.”