April 9, 2009

The chatter and laughter of University of Kentucky College of Agriculture students broke the campus' normal weekend quiet on a bright Saturday morning in early April. Instead of their usual weekend routine of grabbing some extra sleep, they grabbed shovels, rakes, hammers and brushes for a morning of community service. In other words, they did a ‘180.'

In its second year, the aptly named Ag 180º is a student service project whose main purpose is to connect College of Agriculture students with the community.

"It's just a way for the students to give back to the college, as well as giving us a presence in the community," said Cecil Shelton, a junior from the Department of Community and Leadership Development and a member of the planning committee.

The community they focused on this year was UK itself. More than 20 students convened near two of the older College of Agriculture buildings with the intent of giving the grounds and a few classrooms a bit of a facelift. Along a path leading from the parking lot, a dozen students removed sod and planted a garden with native Kentucky plants. A few feet away, others assembled picnic tables for the plaza outside Garrigus Building, and inside Agricultural Science Center North, still more students freshened classroom bulletin boards with paint - renovating, in this time of tight budgets, rather than replacing.

"I think anytime the students get excited about giving back to the college or to the university, that's a wonderful thing," said Michael Mullen, associate dean for academic programs in the College of Agriculture, who was on hand that morning to open doors and lend support.

Ag 180º was created in 2008 by the college's student government representative, Samuel Evans. His successor, Sierra Enlow, who just finished her own term as the college's representative, thought the idea was worth making into an annual tradition. Though last year's project focused on work in the greater Lexington community, this year Enlow, a junior with a double major in the departments of Community and Leadership Development and Agricultural Economics, wanted to concentrate on service to the campus itself. She's been planning the event since November, getting the proper university offices to approve the event and securing funding through UK Student Government's Appropriations and Revenue committee. In addition to the $1,250 from Student Government, which went toward purchasing T-shirts, plants, paint and picnic table materials, Enlow and her planning committee also obtained food and drink donations from local businesses to feed the student workers. Kentucky Pork Producers donated the meat, which was grilled by Larue County Pork Producers. Clark County-based Ale 8-1 donated drinks, and Chik Fil-A contributed side items. Redmond's Garden, Landscape & Gift Center gave the students a discounted price for the plants they purchased, as well as advice on the types of plants that would do well in the setting.

"We're using Kentucky species, keeping our connection with our state," Enlow said.

With so many hands helping, it didn't take long to finish the work. As noon approached, students were hungrily eyeing food and starting cornhole games. Shelton said they wanted to make it a fun day, with work in the morning and entertainment in the afternoon. However, for most of the students, it wasn't the promise of free food and entertainment that got them out of bed so early on a Saturday morning.

"I guess I came to give a little bit back to the college," said agricultural economics freshman Eli Green. "I've been here a semester, and I thought it was a good way to involve some more new students."

Freshman agricultural biotechnology major Demarkus Wilson agreed.

"I love doing community service and giving back," he said. "The college has given so much to me, so I just want to do my part to help out."

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