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Work Day brings community together

Warren Wilson celebrated the 101st anniversary of Work Day, one of the college's oldest and most special traditions

The community spirit of Warren Wilson College was palpable on Thursday as more than 300 students, faculty and staff joined together for Work Day.

Work Day is one of Warren Wilson’s most special traditions— it’s a day where the college pauses all academic programming to build community, beautify the grounds and bond across campus.

“It’s a 100-year-old event that really does allow us the opportunity to come together as a community,” said Paul Bobbitt, the associate dean of work at Warren Wilson. “It gives us an opportunity to live into our ethos.”

Work Day serves as a celebration of work, which is special to Warren Wilson as one of nine work colleges in the country where all residential students are required to work on campus.

“I love Work Day. I love that we’re focusing on work because the work program and the community engagement program are why this place is special,” said senior Elias Goldstein, who works on the CORE (Community Oriented Regeneration Efforts) crew and is studying sociology/anthropology. “I don’t think people are going here for academics as much as they are for an alternative experience, and the more we lean into the uniqueness of this place the better off we will be as a school.”

On Work Day Goldstein did campus cleanup including raking leaves and bringing them down to the compost facility, where they will be turned into rich soil for the college garden. Other projects this Work Day included painting a mural on the back of the pavilion, picking up trash, clearing trails, pressure washing, weeding, restoring the sand volleyball court, writing letters and creating artwork for donors, cleaning and sanitizing classrooms, and creating bird boxes for conservation and research.

This was the first full Work Day since the pandemic began, and many participants said they loved having the community together and working alongside people with many different roles at the college.

“Everyone has been so spread out during COVID, so it was neat to see everybody working together again,” said junior Kai Morton. “That’s my big thing, this school is so community-centered that it’s very important to see the community working together.”

Morton handed out zines and flowers to transgender students to commemorate International Transgender Day of Visibility, which also happened on Thursday. Morton works on the Queer Resource Center crew and is studying history and psychology.

Sophomore Lucy Crayton cleared a dilapidated boat dock by the former swim pond. The swim pond was restored to its original stream course as part of Warren Wilson’s stream restoration project in 2020, and the dock that remained there had become unsafe.

“I definitely think that (Work Day) is a really special part of Warren Wilson College, and it’s a very valuable experience to do something where you can see the tangible results,” Crayton said. “Now whenever I go by the boat dock, I’ll think ‘hey, I did that. And it’s neat to meet and see people from all across the community, including administrators and staff.”

Crayton, who works on the athletics crew and is studying conservation biology and art, said Warren Wilson being a work college is one of the main reasons she chose to attend.

To fulfill their work requirement, students spend eight to 16 hours a week working in crews that range from blacksmithing to IT services to tutoring, as well as keeping the college farm going. In exchange they receive money towards their tuition.