By JEREMY BOHN
Students at the Kansas State University Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus were not only dedicated to their studies this past year but also spent countless hours giving back to the Salina community with a long list of volunteer efforts.
At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, K-State Salina leadership challenged campus members to become more involved and push themselves to find community-service projects to give back.
Many students at K-State Salina took that challenge to heart, and they led or participated in more than 20 community service projects over the academic year. While some projects were small, others took significant time to organize and find student volunteers to complete.
Much of that organization came from K-State Salina's Student Governing Association, or SGA, and Charlie Kiehlbauch, sophomore in professional pilot, Fort Worth, Texas, who serves in the community service cabinet position on SGA.
While Kiehlbauch participated in many of the outreach efforts, he spent even more time putting together opportunities for students to volunteer by becoming a liaison to the community.
"I talked with SGA leadership, and we decided to create a position within the organization to spearhead our campus-led volunteer efforts," said Kiehlbauch. "If someone in the community needed volunteers, they could reach out to me, and I helped organize the student body to give back and participate. I also wanted to focus on planning big events to make them even more impactful."
Many of the efforts that Kiehlbauch organized revolved around the K-State Salina campus and helping fellow students. There were other efforts, however, that allowed the students to get involved in the community. These efforts included assisting students at Sunset Elementary School in Salina and the Giving Tree volunteer project, where students, faculty and staff at K-State Salina donated gifts to elementary students and their families.
Another volunteer effort was STEM Night at Sunset Elementary School. Several of K-State Salina's student clubs visited the school to share more about K-State Salina with the students. Organizations that participated include the Flight Team, Women's Air Race Classic, Women in Aviation, the Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Club and the campus's Upward Bound program.
Kiehlbauch said that the February event was a success.
"Students came out and cooked some hot dogs and served popcorn with lemonade. We also had hands-on booths where students and their families could see and use some of our flight simulators, UAS equipment and more," said Kiehlbauch. "The Sunset students got to go to the booths and learn about STEM education. Seeing all the cool things that our students get to use every day, I think, really excited and motivated the younger elementary students."
Kiehlbauch wasn't the only one giving back at K-State Salina this past school year. Students from the campus's Alpha Eta Rho, an international co-ed aviation fraternity with more than 40 members on the campus, participated in six different service projects this past year.
The projects ranged from helping first-year students move into the residence halls on campus in August to giving back to Salina businesses and organizations. Their tasks included volunteering at the Garage Automotive Museum and the Smoky Hill Museum street fair and parade.
"This year, our fraternity members sat down and decided that we wanted to be a fixture in the Salina community more than ever," said Jack Valdez, senior in professional pilot, Olathe. "It was rewarding to get involved in the community this year and be a part of an organization that truly cares."
Outside of giving back to the Salina community, these volunteer efforts also helped reinforce time management skills for K-State Salina students. Kiehlbauch said he recalls having to focus on these skills during the school year. On top of organizing numerous volunteer events, he is also a full-time student taking flight blocks and courses to become a pilot. Even with the long hours, Kiehlbauch said his experience from this past year was well worth the effort.
With students successfully completing hundreds of hours of service work, the K-State Salina campus is expecting the list of projects to continue to grow into the next academic year.
"We have found success in fostering a culture of giving back to our community," said Kyle Chamberlin, assistant dean of student life. "We want our students to feel a sense of ownership in finding and helping with these community service projects. With the sense of pride that has grown from this past year, we expect the number of hours and projects to continue to grow in the future."