If the greater DeKalb and Sycamore communities look a little spiffier than normal next week, thank the 800 NIU students who will participate Saturday, April 18, in NIU Cares Day.
The students will roll out of bed early and head to 80 different work sites across the county. Many will report to schools across DeKalb to help District 428 clean up playgrounds, put down mulch and just generally help put things in order after a long winter. Other teams will perform similar work for residents of the community, cleaning yards, washing windows and even doing a little painting.
A few teams drew some more unusual tasks.
One will help members of the Barbed Wire Betties roller derby team set up their track for a Saturday night meet at Huntley Middle School. Another will help DeKalb Public Library staff prepare for their annual Star Wars Extravaganza. At the Kishwaukee Family YMCA, NIU students will help build a playground.
Several groups of students will be dispatched to some of the many sites operated by DeKalb County Community Gardens to help prepare for spring planting.
No matter where they go, every team will get a workout. Organizers this year capped the number of participants to ensure that every group has a good experience.
“Some years we have had so many students who got jobs that only took a few minutes, and they wanted to do more,” said Destiny McDonald, assistant director for community service at Student Involvement and Leadership Development, who organized the event. “This year, everyone will get to make a significant contribution while getting to know some of our local organizations and community members.”
Another improvement this year is the number of faculty and staff who volunteered to serve as project site leaders.
“In the past, our site leaders were spread pretty thin, covering five or six sites apiece,” McDonald said. “This year, most of them will only have to cover two, which should improve the experience for all involved.”
One place students will not be working is in tornado-ravaged Fairdale, or any other areas hit by last week’s storms. “We contacted various organizations offering volunteers, but they are overrun with offers of help,” McDonald said.
Her office has a list of more than 500 students who have said that they are ready and willing to help; McDonald expects that, in the weeks ahead, many of them will have the opportunity to demonstrate that NIU cares – long after NIU Cares Day is over.