The Ohio State University at Newark

Ohio State Newark Professor Returns from Buck-I-SERV Trip

NEWARK, Ohio, March 21, 2017 – The Ohio State University at Newark Visiting Assistant Professor of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology Natasha Woods returned to the classroom this week after spring break with a new perspective and first-hand experience to bring to her students. Woods just returned from a Buck-I-SERV trip to Immokalee, Florida where she served as a faculty advisor.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Woods.

Buck-I-SERV is The Ohio State University's Alternative Break Program. The one week, substance-free trips are centered on community service and civic engagement. Students learn the importance of reflection, social justice, active citizenship and civic engagement while gaining new perspectives through working in diverse environments.

Woods and nine students worked at a community center called the Guadalupe Center in Immokalee from March 11 – 18. More than 40 percent of the population in Immokalee lives below the poverty level, and 97 percent of school-aged students are economically needy. The Guadalupe Center includes a soup kitchen, clothing center, college preparatory center and a shower center for those in need. Most of the children at the Guadalupe Center come from homes where Spanish is their native language, and many families in the community are migrant workers in the tomato fields. Nearly one-third of the nation’s tomatoes are grown in the region.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to serve. It’s a chance to spend a week learning about a different culture and gaining an appreciation for the great work teachers and community volunteers do every day. What I like about Buck-I-SERV is that there are 10 of us. We come in like a little army and get a lot of work done. It’s powerful for us and the people we serve,” said Woods. “We worked with preschool teachers, and I visited a different classroom everyday assisting teachers with the students. One meaningful interaction I had was working with a left-handed student who was about four years old. One of the teachers was having a difficult time getting him to write his name correctly. I sat down with him, told him that I am left-handed and that I know what a challenge it can be learning to write the alphabet correctly.”

Woods teaches biology and human physiology courses on the Newark campus. She chose the Immokalee trip after a student in one of her biology courses asked if it was true that a large portion of the nation’s tomato crop came from Immokalee and was picked by migrant workers.

“This trip gave me an opportunity to take a question I got in class and really examine the issues surrounding it,” said Woods. “I got to help the people of Immokalee, and they helped me come away with a deeper understanding of their issues and culture.”

The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life.