Community Ambassadors connect off-campus neighbors
Program builds community in the University District
Ohio State News contributor
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor.
Walk the streets of the University District and you’ll see a diverse neighborhood. The district, adjacent to the Columbus campus of The Ohio State University, comprises students living in rental properties as well as long-term, home-owning residents, churches and community organizations.
The Willie J. Young Sr. Off-Campus and Commuter Student Engagement (OCCSE) department in the Office of Student Life is committed to the residential experience, helping create a sense of community for all those who live in the University District. The office provides a variety of opportunities for off-campus students and long-term residents to engage with each other.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, building community is critical for safe and stable environments. When neighbors are devoted to supporting the needs of the entire community, they are more likely to be successful. By creating a close-knit community, residents can look out for one another by reporting suspicious activity in the neighborhood.
OCCSE’s Community Ambassador program is a cornerstone of this effort. Ambassadors are students who live in the University District and are committed to peer-led efforts to promote civic engagement, build inclusive communities in the off-campus area and increase safety awareness. Through a variety of initiatives and programming, these student ambassadors strengthen the relationship between off-campus residents, their neighborhood and Ohio State.
One of 15 recommendations from Ohio State’s Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being included expanding the Community Ambassador program and its effort. OCCSE is currently looking to hire additional ambassadors as part of a plan to extend the program to additional areas of the University District. Interested students can learn more online.
“The Community Ambassador program is devoted to student success and ensuring that we can provide all of our off-campus students with any resource they may need,” says community ambassador Cassidy Ruckel. “Through promoting safety, accessibility and inclusion, we are working to make our off-campus community the best place it can possibly be.”
Community ambassadors interact with residents and community members in the off-campus area to build neighborhood pride. By developing trust with students and residents, community ambassadors learn about the successes and challenges specific to University District students and long-term residents, allowing them to offer relevant and timely solutions.
In August, community ambassadors assisted OCCSE with delivering 10,000 welcome bags to individual residences, apartment complexes and graduate and professional students in the off-campus area. Bags included household supplies, coupons for local businesses and snacks. The bags also contained information regarding the Community Ambassador Program as well as materials detailing specific roles and responsibilities of off-campus residents.
Prior to the start of classes, the department also hosted the Welcome Back Food Truck Event. Over 1,000 students dined on tacos while they connected with peers in the neighborhood, Ohio State Office of Student Life staff, Columbus Police, the Columbus Division of Fire and Community Crime Patrol members. Complimentary safety devices were also provided for attendees.
Students residing in the University District are invited to join the BLOC (Buckeyes Living Off Campus) online community through Office365 Teams. Thousands of members strong, this group provides space for users to learn about what’s happening in the community, connect with other off-campus students and ask community ambassadors any questions about off-campus living.
Community ambassadors will be hosting events throughout the semester focusing on safety education and resources, community building and good neighbor education. Students and others can follow @offcampus_osu on Instagram for updates on dates, times and locations of the programs.