Profiles in Civic Engagement: Joe Garrant

Year: Sophomore
Major: Financial Economics
  • Student in Hinman’s Service and Leadership Practicum Course, Fall 2010
  • Treasurer of Habitat for Humanity, Binghamton University Chapter
  • Participated in Alternative Spring Break trip to North Carolina and led Alabama trip with Habitat for Humanity
  • Service Ambassador for the Center for Civic Engagement
  • Student in “Community in Recovery” Course about the 2011 Flood
  • Coordinator of flood recovery student teams, Fall 2011
  • Represented Binghamton University at The SUNY Showcase 

How did you first get involved with community service at Binghamton University?

When I first came to college, I took the Service and Leadership Practicum Class instructed by Professor Al Vos. This class really opened my eyes to a whole world of service based opportunities on campus. In high school, I never really had many options to do volunteer work, so when I came to Binghamton, I was consumed by it and got involved right away. Since that class, I have found more opportunities to pursue service and have even found my way into a few leadership positions where I can pass on my own service experiences to students looking to get involved. The Service and Leadership Practicum gave me the jump start that I needed to kick off my community service involvement here in Binghamton.

What kinds of volunteer experiences have you had here, and what organizations have you worked with?
I am currently the Treasurer of the Binghamton University chapter of Habitat for Humanity. After participating in the Alternative Spring Break Trip to Rocky Mount, North Carolina last year, I was elected onto the E-Board that same year. Just a few weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to lead this year’s HFH Spring Break Trip to Birmingham, Alabama, where we worked on building a few houses down south. We were even able to take part in the dedication ceremony of the houses that we helped to build. I am actively involved with Habitat and I enjoy working with my fellow peers.

I am also a Service Ambassador (SA) for the Center for Civic Engagement. As an SA, I help to promote events hosted by the CCE as well as promote and encourage civic engagement in general. It is our goal to provide students with the information necessary to participate in a variety of service projects that interest them.

How did you get involved helping with flood recovery in fall 2011? What were some of the most memorable experiences you had?
Within a few weeks of the flood waters receding, I was on the front lines helping out with flood relief. We started by going into the flooded basements of homes and literally mucking out everything that was damaged (the term “mucking,” which means “to clean out mud, dirt, or filth,” was commonly used to refer to the work we were doing). This was hard, but necessary work that needed to get done, especially for those houses in which the owners themselves were incapable of doing hard physical labor. I will never forget the smells of sewage and flood debris; the stuff I saw was really eye opening and a true testament to the horror of natural disasters.

The most memorable part of my involvement with the flood recovery efforts was working on a house that had not been opened in over 2 months of the flood hitting. After clearing out what we could, the owner showed up at the house. Right before telling us about how she had recently undergone brain surgery, she was informed that her house was to be condemned due to its unlivable state. After dealing with a traumatic personal health crisis, she would not be able to return to her own home. Such terrible things happened all over Binghamton, Broome County, and the Southern Tier.

In addition, I took the Flood Relief Internship Class, “Community in Recovery,” taught by Professors Allison Alden and Donald Loewen. This class educated us on various elements of disaster relief including the socio-economic, geographical, financial, physical, and psychological impacts of the flood. During the course sessions, many local leaders within the Binghamton community spoke with us about their involvement in the flood relief operation. It was amazing to hear about all of the coordination and effort that was involved in preparing for and dealing with the consequences of the disaster. We were also required to do 30 hours of flood relief service on our own time. This was a great opportunity for students to go out in the community and witness, first-hand, the true destruction of the flood and to lend a helping hand in the efforts of the recovery.

At the SUNY Showcase, I was given the opportunity to represent the CCE as a student who was actively involved in flood recovery. I got the chance to speak with SUNY Chancellor Zimpher about my experiences mucking out basements in the crucial weeks directly following the flood. It was a unique opportunity that I was fortunate to have.

Why do you think it is important for students to become civically engaged?

I think it is important that students become civically engaged because service is one of the most rewarding learning experiences. When students get involved in the community it creates a mutually beneficial relationship that can improve both the social and economic welfare of that particular community. In a place such as Binghamton, this is especially crucial. With the growing rate of the student population, the University’s role in the community has the potential to become bigger and more meaningful. Students have the ability to define the reputation of the University, so it is up to us to be positive and help address community needs. Community service and service based learning opportunities are the best ways for students to become directly involved in the community and can be very rewarding, enjoyable and worthwhile experiences.

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