by Amy Jones-Timoney, Katy Bennett, Kody Kiser
(Oct. 15, 2014) — When Connor Appelman came to UK as a freshman, he knew he wanted to get involved on campus, but wasn't quite sure where to start. He heard a few guys in his residence hall talking about UK FUSION (For Unity and Service In Our Neighborhoods) and decided to join them. The rest is history.
"I volunteered a lot in high school," Appelman said, "and I knew I wanted to get involved with service somehow at UK right away. FUSION seemed like that first step without a big commitment — just a few hours on the Monday before classes started. I thought it would be a good way to get acclimated with campus and Lexington and meet new people."
Little did Appelman know then that a few hours on that first Monday he was on campus would turn into a four-year relationship with FUSION.
"In my four years volunteering with FUSION, I've done everything from painting curbs to stuffing care packages and just about everything in between," Appelman said. "FUSION has really helped me get out of the 'UK bubble' and see the needs of our community and how I can contribute."
UK FUSION is a program housed in the Center for Community Outreach (CCO) and is the largest one-day service event in the state of Kentucky. UK teams up with nonprofit agencies throughout Lexington and sends more than 1,000 student, faculty and staff volunteers to complete projects across Fayette County. Small groups of students are paired with a veteran student and a UK faculty or staff volunteer who serve as site leaders.
"My junior year, after two years as a participant, I volunteered to be a site leader," Appelman said. "I enjoy being a site leader because I participate in the day just like one of the gang, but I have some experience, both in service and on campus, that I can rely on to make connections with new students and help them feel comfortable being at UK."
"FUSION is such a great way to start off the school year — not focusing on yourself or on school but on service and giving back," Appelman said. "It just gives you a really good perspective; college is busy but you do have free time and volunteering is rewarding.
"The CCO is such a great resource on our campus; it helps get you off campus, breaks your routine and opens up your eyes to things going on off campus."
"DanceBlue is the big spring service event on campus and FUSION is the large fall service event and I really want to encourage everyone to give it a try; service opens up your eyes to different people and teaches you how to be a better person," Appelman said.
Appelman has used FUSION as his kickstart to volunteering on campus; he has been involved with several organizations and opportunities including DanceBlue, the Children's Miracle Network and Kentucky Children's Hospital, and Habitat for Humanity.
"Obviously a big part of college is the academics and learning, but at the same time there is that aspect of learning how to be a person and to mature into an adult and learning how to interact with different people in different situations," Appelman said. "Eventually, I hope to go to medical school and pursue a career as a physician. But this kind of transcends pretty much any job and career that you’re going to have. You have to be able to work with people."
"There are obviously many people and many situations, many programs and places that need student help," he said. "FUSION is such a great program for the Lexington community and for UK students, and I’m just very glad that I was able to be a part of it these past four years. It’s one of the most rewarding and enriching things you can do while you’re at UK."
Learn more about UK FUSION and all the programs within the Center for Community Outreach. The CCO seeks to serve, connect and unite the University of Kentucky with the surrounding community in collaborative efforts to promote life-long community service. Connect with the CCO on Facebook and on Twitter.
See photos from this year's K Week events, including UK FUSION, here.