YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown State University is launching a new initiative to help get students, faculty and alumni involved in the community.

It is called Penguin Pulse. The program provides an opportunity to work with a variety of organizations in the Mahoning Valley.

Saturday, about 60 volunteers from YSU were helping at United Way’s monthly Saturday of Caring.

The helped bag food that would be delivered to over 400 families in the area.

YSU’s Lexi Rager says the initiative is a way to give back to the community that does so much for the college.

“We really teach our students about community engagement and how it’s a reciprocal relationship. So, not only are we serving out community, which gives us the ‘warm and fuzzies’, but also they are getting so much out of that. They are building their skills, they’re building their network, they’re making new friends, they’re learning teamwork skills that they can really use to market themselves later,” said Rager, YSU Honors College Assistant Director.

The initiative started in 2020 to help get food out to those who were unable to go out due to the virus.

“We think it’s so important being YSU faculty and staff members that we’re leaving Youngstown a better place than we found it. We’re leaving our students in a better place, so they can go out and impact the community too. so, again, it’s really important for us as informed citizens, as good citizens, to go out and be giving back what we can,” Rager said.

Since then, United Way has continued to provide food to seniors and shut-ins with their monthly “Saturday of Caring.”

United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley invite anyone in the community to help volunteer each month for Saturday of Caring.

Roxann Sebest with United Way says they also greatly appreciate any donations. She says like everyone, their grocery bill has skyrocketed. Despite that, they still want to make sure no one goes hungry in the Mahoning Valley.

Rager said the volunteer work helps students in their career path, too.

“We’ve had so many students they go out and they’re volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, they meet a board member and the board member says, ‘hey, let me forward your resume to these people I know.’ They’re earning jobs, they’re earning internships. These are some of the tangibles we see from community engagement outside of just course work.”

For more information, visit United Way’s website.

Students and alumni can learn more on the Office of Community Engagement page on YSU’s website.