Oberlin Builds Partnerships in Cleveland

September 5, 2019

Amanda Nagy

Students in matching Connect Cleveland t-shirts  sit on an outdoor sculpture representing the hashtag #ThisIsCLE
Students hang out in Wade Oval during the 2019 Connect Cleveland trip.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

Connect Cleveland immerses the Class of 2023 in the city’s culture through site visits, workshops, and hands-on service work.

Oberlin’s Connect Cleveland program returned for a second year on August 28, bringing more than 800 first-year students to the city for a day of discovery and service work during Orientation week.

Connect Cleveland was initiated by President Carmen Twillie Ambar as a way to strengthen ties between the college and city. The daylong experience is an opportunity for the incoming class to learn about Cleveland and greater Northeast Ohio, meet Oberlin alumni, and identify possibilities for future internships, community engagement, and employment. 

The event is organized by the Bonner Center, which has partnered with 35 organizations throughout greater Cleveland. In the morning, students engaged in hands-on service work at sites such as MedWish International, Rid-All Green Partnership, Ohio City Farm, and the Children’s Museum of Cleveland. Students were divided into cohorts and participated in site visits and workshops at places including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, MetroHealth Medical Center, and the Somatic Center. 

The value of partnerships

Oberlin students “bring a special energy a genuine curiosity when they visit,” said Caley Haehn, volunteer program manager for MedWish International, a not-for-profit organization that repurposes discarded medical supplies and equipment to provide humanitarian aid in developing countries. “We believe it is important for young adults in Cleveland and surrounding areas to be cognizant of the local efforts that affect change both here in town and across the globe. We hope that exposure to local organizations during orientation encourages lasting partnerships.”

The Children’s Museum stated that it values the importance of building partnerships that allow students to learn more about their communities, develop community engagement opportunities, and provide ways for students to strengthen their interpersonal skills in a real-world setting.

First-year Gabriela Castillo was part of a cohort that volunteered at MedWish International. An intended biology major from New York City, Castillo said she found it interesting to learn about various medical supplies. “It was really cool knowing that people were going to be receiving those things.”

Solace Porter, a first-year from Guilford, Connecticut, volunteered at Rid-All Green Partnership, an urban farm that grows and distributes fresh produce to residents and area institutions. She echoed the sentiment of other students from the day who said they enjoyed being able to bond with their Peer Advising Leadership (PAL) group.

“It was nice to work together with the people in my PAL program, and we got to tour the facilities.” While urban farming wasn’t necessarily related to her educational interests, Porter said “it did spark some interest in environmental studies.”

In addition to Connect Cleveland, students had the opportunity to engage in service work in Oberlin and surrounding communities as part of the Community Engagement Institute, held this year on August 31.

“There are not many institutions where you have multiple days of service through your orientation,” said President Ambar. “I think it says something about Oberlin.” 

View pictures from the Connect Cleveland orientation in our Flickr album.


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