SARASOTA — First-year students at Ringling College of Art and Design were making their way into the Sarasota community Saturday, just days after they had moved onto campus.
They arrived on campus Wednesday, and on Saturday participated in a day of community service at local organizations including Mote Marine Laboratory, All Faiths Food Bank and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. A small group worked at The Haven, a 32-acre center and nonprofit intended to house, educate and aid people with disabilities.
On Saturday, about 40 students sat at tables in The Haven’s classrooms, sketching intricate thank you notes for wildlife rangers. The designs ranged from the comical, with a smug-looking fox surrounding the words, “What does the fox say?” to a detailed illustration of a cougar, eagle and alligator surrounding the words, “Thank you so, so much.” The students’ artistic ability shone through their inventive designs, but it was interacting with The Haven’s clients that made the experience worthwhile.
“It’s cool to help out in a new community,” said Puerto Rico native and Ringling first-year student Ale Salaman. “I’m new here, and I want to blend into the community and immerse myself.”
Salaman and her new friend, 18-year-old Marissa States, said they have done community service before and are interested in coming back to volunteer. In fact, the organization is looking for more art teachers, according to The Haven’s community outreach director and volunteer coordinator, Jordan Cadavid.
The partnership between The Haven and Ringling College materialized from a conversation between the college’s volunteer coordinator, Susan Saulnier, and Cadavid. Both agreed that the two organizations would be a “good fit,” especially given the Haven’s focus on art creation as a way to connect. Cadavid hopes the program will lead to more long-term relationships with Ringling students, but stressed that the Haven’s clients often need consistency with volunteers.
“I would love to have college students, but we’d want to make sure they spend an hour or two in the art room,” Cadavid said. “Our clients get very attached.”
That’s all part of the point of this Ringling orientation program, which combines getting to know fellow students with getting to know the community.
“The goal for us is is to get them into the Sarasota community, make it a home away from home and maybe find an organization near and dear to their heart,” Saulnier said. “And of course, we want them to make friends.”