A year-long service-learning program for high school students.

The Wexner Service Corps (WSC) is a year-long Jewish service-learning program for high school juniors and seniors in Columbus, Ohio. WSC, created with inspiration from Hannah Wexner, is designed to educate and unite Jewish teens through community service and connecting to their shared Jewish texts and tradition. Each year, WSC accepts about 40 students from a diverse cross-section of the Jewish community.

In 2020, WSC members will participate in local monthly service-learning events starting in September and then, if eligible, participate in a 5-day service trip to a location outside of Columbus in June 2021. Previous cohorts traveled to New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Houston.

Senior Leadership Cohort (SLC) applicants may also apply from this page.

Leadership

The Wexner Service Corps Program is overseen by Rabbi Jay Henry Moses, managed by Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnik and supported by Program Coordinator Dara Katzner.

Program and Educational Overview

Additional volunteering opportunities could include coordinating with local organizations on disaster relief, working with children from low-income backgrounds, building and maintaining community gardens, cooking and preparing food for soup kitchens, and running programs for adults with developmental disabilities. During both the year-round component and service trip, WSC members study Jewish texts and contemporary sources, discuss issues related to social justice and community service and participate in experiential learning activities.

To kick off the WSC experience and start the year on a strong note, there will be a full-day, local orientation/kickoff event on August 23, 2020 for our Senior Leadership Cohort and August 30, 2020 for our Wexner Service Corps.

Through the generosity of Leslie and Abigail Wexner and The Wexner Foundation, all expenses will be paid.

Any Questions?

Please contact Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnik.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Wexner Service Corps (WSC)?

The Wexner Service Corps (WSC) is a service-learning initiative for Columbus Jewish teenagers. It launched with an inaugural New York Service Trip in June 2013. Wexner Service Corps members participated in hands-on Hurricane Sandy relief work while learning Jewish texts related to the value of service and reflecting on the work, its impact and the harsh reality of disasters. Since then, Columbus Jewish teens have cumulatively put in thousands of service hours into serving both the Columbus community and in New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Houston. The Wexner Service Corps was inspired by Hannah Wexner and it is generously supported by Leslie and Abigail Wexner and The Wexner Foundation.

What is the year-round service like?

Throughout the year, all WSC participants will volunteer locally during monthly volunteer opportunities in Columbus, each paired with an opportunity for Jewish conversations and reflection. These events often take place on Sunday mornings. There will also be multiple optional opportunities for service beyond our monthly mandatory events.

Sample Year-Round Program

August– Summit Vision

September– Blanket making for Nationwide Children’s Hospital

October– Habitat for Humanity

November– KIPP Columbus; Worthington Resource Center

December– Family Mentor Foundation

January– Lifetown

February– Broad Street Food Pantry

March– J-Serve

April– Wexner Heritage Village

May– Camp Mary Orton

June– Out-of-state trip

What if I am unable to participate in physical labor due to injury, disability, or any other reason?

We do our best to accommodate participants with a range of physical abilities. If you have questions about your ability to participate in physical labor, please contact us to discuss.

What if I have conflicts (e.g. extracurricular activities, family events, trips) and cannot fully commit to Sundays during the 2020-2021 school year?

All monthly service events are mandatory. We will do our best to send out the schedule in advance so that you can plan accordingly. We understand that, occasionally, there are unavoidable conflicts which might necessitate missing part or all of an event. As soon as you are aware of a potential conflict, you should contact us directly. WSC members commit to missing no more than two service events that have been excused in advance. Our expectation is that you will make up any missed service hours on your own time.

When is the trip? Where will the trip be going this year?

As of now, the next trip is still TBD both in date and location. Regardless, we will either fly round-trip from Columbus via chartered plane or we will take a coach bus.

Who will be on the trip?

Up to 40 Columbus Jewish teenagers, grades 11 & 12, from various high schools, along with staff members from The Wexner Foundation.

Who will be directing and accompanying the group?

The WSC is under the direction of Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnik, Wexner Service Corps program director. There will be at least four additional madrichim (counselors), including experienced OSU students and Wexner Graduate Fellows (graduate students), educators who have benefited from The Wexner Foundation’s leadership development program.  Our partner agencies will also deploy staff at the work site.

Do I have to go on the entire trip? Can I arrive late or leave early?

All participants are required to participate in the entire trip. Please contact us if that creates a conflict with the end of the school year.

What is the service site?

Our schedule is still being finalized, and we plan to have a full itinerary and description of service work for you at the orientation.

What kind of work will participants be doing?

There will be several different types of service that will enable the Corps to employ different skills and tap into the diverse range of skills and passion that our members possess. Past work has included home repairs, gardening/farming, educational programming for elementary school students, advocacy, mural painting, and park cleaning.

What will a typical day look like?

Each day will include approximately six hours of service, followed by opportunities for Jewish conversations, learning about the issue areas, and reflection, bolstered by speakers from the communities and agencies where we will be working. In the evening, we’ll both unwind and have fun.

What will make the trip Jewish?

We believe that service and Jewish learning are integral to Jewish life and identity. As such, the trip will be a highly Jewish experience. Jewish thought, text and questions will be the frame through which we’ll explore the work we’re doing and the feelings evoked by the experience. Each day we will spend 90 minutes reflecting on the work we have done through Jewish values in learning and discussion sessions. Corps members come from the spectrum of Jewish life in Columbus and learning from each other and developing Jewish friendships are among the core goals of the Corps. The food provided will be kosher and there will be optional opportunities to pray together if Corps members are interested.

What is Jewish learning?

Jewish learning is the practice of studying both traditional Jewish texts and putting them into conversation with contemporary sources and articles, as well as secular texts that are learned through a Jewish lens, in order to inspire thoughtful conversation and reflection. We try to make all the learning interesting, inspiring and relevant to all WSC members regardless of skill level, prior experience or affiliation.

What will the group eat? Will the food be kosher?

All meals will be certified kosher and provided by a local caterer.

What should Corps members pack and plan to wear?

You will receive a packing list 10 days before the trip which will tell you how to dress for the service work we will be doing. However, in regards to the type of clothing, we advise participants to keep the following in mind, in both work-day clothing and evening activity clothing choices:  As we travel throughout our trip, Corps Members will be representing themselves, Columbus and The Wexner Foundation. We advise Corps members to consider the Jewish value of tzniut (modesty and humility) which applies not only to the clothes we wear, but to the way we conduct ourselves in public places. Please wear clothing that will allow you to move freely while also being respectful of the environment. This could apply to baggy pants, sleeveless or low-cut tops, too-short shorts, etc.

Eligibility (WSC)

To apply for the Wexner Service Corps, applicants must be:

  • Columbus-area Jewish teens
  • Entering either 11th or 12th Grade in the 2020-2021 Academic Year
  • Able to commit to participate in the Wexner Service Corps year-round program, which includes monthly service and learning for approximately 3-5 hours per session on Sundays and occasional weekday evenings in the Columbus area. See the Applicant and Parent FAQ page for a sample calendar of events.

The Wexner Service Corps is competitive and selective. We encourage applicants to give appropriate thought and effort to their applications. All completed applications received by the deadline will be carefully reviewed.

Selection criteria includes:

  • Quality of application
  • Geographic and community diversity
  • Eagerness to engage in Jewish learning and exploration
  • Articulated interest in community service
  • Input from a reference

Apply (WSC)

Applications for our 2020-2021 WSC Cohort are closed. To receive a notification when the application opens for the 2021-2022 school year, please complete this form.

The application will include basic info and several essay questions (listed below). You will also be asked to create a one-minute video that answers a brief question.

1. What else are you involved in that might make it difficult to participate in WSC both during the academic year and during the trip? How would you make time for this experience?

2. Please share a strength of yours and how it would benefit the group.

3. Please identify a role model and describe how he or she has helped shape your Jewish identity.

4. Think about an issue in your community, school, the country or the world that frustrates you. If you created your own service event in response, what would it look like?

5. Here’s a choice of two texts; choose one that speaks to you and tell us how this text motivates you in your desire to help change the world.

Text 1: “Hillel used to say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot 1:14)

Text 2: “Shimon the Righteous…used to say: the world stands upon three things: the Torah (teaching), Avodah (ritual service), and on the practice of acts of loving kindness.”

Eligibility (SLC)

To apply for the Senior Leadership Cohort, applicants must be:

Current members of the Wexner Service Corps may apply for the Senior Leadership Cohort (SLC). Following the selection of new Service Corps members, we will select a small number of SLC members. SLC will have a separate curriculum and unique responsibilities during their additional year of participation in WSC.  Applications received prior to the deadline will be carefully reviewed.

Eligibility criteria includes:

  • Current Member of WSC
  • Will be in 12th grade in the 2020-2021 school year
  • Has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to service, leadership and passion over the past year of service
  • Has completed an SLC application

For more information, contact us.

Apply (SLC)

The SLC application is currently closed.

The application will include basic info and several essay questions (listed below).

1. Describe an “Ah-ha!” moment you had during your year as a WSC member. How was it transformative for you? (This moment could be related to: service work, interactions with others, relationships formed, learning, etc.)

2. Text question: In Genesis 4, the Torah teaches us that when brothers Cain and Abel were out in the fields together, “…Cain set upon his brother Abel and killed him. God said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ And he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?'” (Please answer the following questions, and do not take the text so literally.)
a. How do you understand Cain’s response?
b. What does it mean for YOU to be “your brother’s” keeper?
c. Who is YOUR BROTHER?
d. How might you be his KEEPER?
e. Explain how your understanding of the text reflects your sense of responsibility to do service for others?

3. How do you see yourself as a role model for new WSC members?

4. As you know, the SLC has a limited number of slots available. In a paragraph, please tell us why you would make an excellent SLC candidate.