Oklahoma Baptist University's Welcome Week is designed to celebrate incoming freshmen and transfer students' transitions to Bison Hill. While the new students learn about OBU traditions and form new relationships, Welcome Week also designates a time for students to connect with the local community through a service-oriented event called "Serve Shawnee."
Monday morning more than 350 freshmen and their upperclassmen Welcome Week workers spread out in the Shawnee area to work at 17 locations. The students tackled tasks at Fairview Cemetery, Kidspace park, Santa Fe Depot, Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, Family Promise, Harvest Farms, HOPE House, Mabee-Gerrer Museum, Mission Shawnee, Salvation Army, Shawnee Tower, Dunbar Recreational Center, Shawnee Lake Project, Hi-Rise, Milstead Circle and Kickapoo Parks by painting, cleaning up trash, and addressing other specific needs of each location.
Serve Shawnee connects students with their peers and illustrates different ways they can be involved in the surrounding community. New students said they appreciated the opportunity to learn about the community and connect with their classmates.
"I think it's really cool that new students get a chance to see what other students who have already been at OBU get to do," said Kaylie Beck, a freshman from Chandler, Okla. "It's cool to give back to the community. It's an opportunity to get to know each other more and make more friends."
Some students saw the Welcome Week activity as the beginning of their ministries.
"It's just been really fun to not only serve the community of Shawnee but to get plugged in right away in Shawnee and with other students," said Josh Campbell, a freshman from Oklahoma City, Okla. "It's fun to get to serve and really minister right away while at OBU. That's been the best thing so far."
Upperclassmen plan Serve Shawnee as a strategic part of the Welcome Week tradition.
"I think it's really important for the students to see that going to OBU isn't just about being on campus, but it's important to get out into the community," said Danielle Cummins, a junior from Rogers, Ark. "A lot of people think of OBU as being just like a bubble. Serve Shawnee helps us get out there and really show what we've learned at school, and we can apply it in the community."
Welcome Week sets apart four days to welcome incoming freshmen and transfer students to the OBU and Shawnee communities. Throughout the week, new students engage in a book study, small group sessions, academic and campus life activities and learn more about life at OBU. Welcome Week will conclude Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. with "The Walk" from the Oval to Raley Chapel, a tradition to symbolize the beginning of their OBU journey.