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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

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Back the Bend returns for thirteenth year

The Stepan Center was filled with over 500 students at 8:00 a.m. this Saturday. The cause for this was the 13th annual Back the Bend, an event hosted by student government to connect students to the South Bend community. 

Students had the chance to volunteer with over 25 organizations in South Bend, including Unity Gardens and the Robinson Center. This year's organizations, such as St. Vincent De Paul and the South Bend Animal Resource Center, were new to the list. 

“Since I am a freshman I was kind of wondering this whole year to get involved with community service, but I wasn't really sure where to start,” Elizabeth Culcasi said. “I think it was a good gateway, like for projects and activities and the rest of our years here.”

Students were given complimentary shirts and Einstein Bagels when they arrived at the Stephen Center. For lunch, food trucks provided food for students after their volunteering shift concluded. 

“This was the first year that we actively sought out corporate sponsors to help with funding so about half of the funding came from the Student Union and student government funding. And then we had our largest sponsor, KPMG. And then we also had sponsorship from EY, PwC, Deloitte and campus ministry,” Kate Jackowski said. 

Jackowski is the director of outreach for student government. Back the Bend event proves costly as the student government foots the bill for food, shirts, and transportation for over 500 students. 

“I think it's just a desire to supply a one-off opportunity for students that are interested in serving but maybe don't have transportation or time, and they can not schedule to do something more consistent,” Jackowski said. “I think this is very notable, just given the fact that it's pretty university-wide. I think we have around 600 sign up, and we probably give or take out 550 to serve, which is obviously one of the largest university-wide volunteer projects on campus.” 

Jackowski's enthusiastic belief in and passion for this event resonated strongly with the volunteers.

“I've seen how South Bend has opened its arms to welcome me. And so I felt like this was just part of my way to give back to them and thank our community who has done so much for me. And just like in any little way that I can help, I'm happy to help,” Bernice Antoine said. 

This was Antoine's second year volunteering with Back the Bend. 

Dawson Kiser, who will transition into the role of student body president on April 1, was also in attendance. 

“This is definitely something that's really important to us for next year. I think they've done a great job with it this year. I think having it in Stepan was a good move. But yeah, we're really excited to continue this tradition for next year and, you know, make it as big as it can be,”  Kiser said. 

The university has over 60 service-oriented clubs on campus for students to be involved in. The Center of Social Concerns, on top of that, maintains working relationships with around 50 local organizations. 

“I chose to do Back to the Bend because it's always fun when you're making a difference, and I'm just happy to be able to do it with some of my fellow classmates and to come together for something so meaningful and impactful. So I'm very excited to have this opportunity,” Mason McCart, a volunteer, said.