SCOREs find success despite low participation rate

Andy Monserud

Whitman’s Summer Community Outreach Excursions, better known by the acronym SCORE, had a particularly low turnout this year. With only 18 first-year participants in four SCORE programs, participants were spread thin in comparison to previous years.

SCOREs are service trips for first-year students which take place prior to the beginning of school, intended to introduce participants to service opportunities in and around Walla Walla. Participating students both perform service and learn about various issues facing the area. The focuses of this year’s SCORES were Housing and Homelessness, Food and Hunger, Environmental Justice, and Sustainability and Community and Identity.

“SCOREs are a really great way not only for students to get involved in service, but for the Walla Walla community to realize that Whitman students are passionate about doing what they can to work alongside community members and improve the community in whatever ways [the people living in it] want it to be improved,” said SCORE coordinator Katie Steen.

In 2013, SCOREs had over 30 first-year participants on three trips. This year, the addition of the Community and Identity SCORE and the lower participation rates brought group sizes down to a handful of first-years accompanied by three leaders. SCOREs compete with Scrambles, a collection of trips for first-years organized by the Outdoor Program during the same time period, for participants. Scrambles typically receive much more publicity than SCOREs.

It’s unclear exactly what precipitated this year’s drop in SCORE attendance, but Steen hopes SCOREs will be advertised more heavily to the incoming class of 2019.

“The one thing this summer that I thought was the most unfortunate or the most challenging about SCOREs was that there wasn’t quite as much interest in it. And I think part of that is just that new students don’t know what it is,” Steen said.  “I’m hoping that next year during admitted students’ day there’ll be…something to advertise SCOREs.”

The drop in participation had some positive effects. Senior Molly Emmett, who co-led the Community and Identity SCORE, believe having a smaller group helped the four first-years and three leaders in her SCORE group bond.

“We were able to do more of the projects together, all in one place,” said Emmett. “It was kind of nice to work together a lot of the time.”

Senior Rachel Palfini co-led the Housing and Homelessness SCORE, which worked with organizations including the Walla Walla Housing Authority and the STEP Women’s shelter. She says that the low participation rate in her SCORE, which also had only four first-years, didn’t dramatically impact its productivity.

“A lot of times organizations, especially smaller organizations, struggle to find things for large groups to do,” Palfini said. “We could have used a few more people to help shovel gravel, but…we had enough people, it just took a while.”

The inaugural Community and Identity SCORE included trips to the Walla Walla State Penitentiary, the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton and Lincoln Alternative High School. Participants sought a deeper understanding of the various smaller communities within Walla Walla.

“It’s kind of a broad topic,” said Emmet. “There’s so many things that can fit into the label ‘community.’ We use the word all the time, same with identity. [The SCORE] was … focused on different organizations within the Walla Walla community, and how they intersect, and which populations … they reach out to and try to help, which issues they focus on.”

Deepraj Pawar, who participated in the Community and Identity SCORE, enjoyed her time on SCORE despite initial misgivings.

“Originally, I was kind of hoping for a bigger SCORE,” Pawar said. “Finding out there were only four students, it actually was kind of nice. We all bonded really well.”

Steen says that sentiment is par for the course.

“No matter how many participants are actually participating [in SCOREs],” she said, “the ones who do really get a lot out of it.”