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 30 students from a diverse cross-section of the Jewish community.
In 2022, WSC members will participate in local monthly service-learning events starting in September and then, if eligible, participate in a multi-day service trip to a location outside of Columbus in June 2023. Previous cohorts traveled to New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Houston.
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. While the current pandemic has certainly placed limitations on our ability to serve the community, our service reflects the needs of the moment, whether that be in-person or virtual. 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 events in August 2022.
Through the generosity of Leslie and Abigail Wexner and The Wexner Foundation, all expenses will be paid.
To apply for the Wexner Service Corps, applicants must be:
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:
Please contact Dara Katzner, Program Coordinator.
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. Your Availability
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. Your Strengths
Please share a strength of yours and how it would benefit the group.
3. Your Role Model
Please identify a role model and describe how he or she has helped shape your Jewish identity.
4. Your Community Vision
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. Your Vision During the Pandemic
What is an issue that emerged in the world during the craziness of the pandemic that feels pressing to you and that you’d like to work on?
6. Your Response To Text
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.”
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.
We believe that service and Jewish learning are integral to Jewish life and identity. 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. During the school year and on the summer trip, we will spend time 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. Any food provided to Corps members will be certified Kosher.
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.
As of January 21, 2022, The Wexner Foundation will require all members, fellows, faculty and staff attending in-person events and institutes to be fully vaccinated and boostered as eligible against COVID-19 with any of the vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States. The US CDC guidance on vaccine boosters defines eligibility as follows: anyone 16 and older who received their second Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine dose at least six months ago, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago, is eligible to get a vaccine booster.
Masks are required at all events while indoors and we maintain distance as much as possible. Depending on how the COVID-19 numbers look in Franklin County, we may decide to have virtual events some months instead of being in-person.
In years past, all WSC participants have volunteered 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, or early afternoons. There may also be multiple optional service experiences offered beyond our monthly mandatory events. Some organizations we’ve worked with in the past include Habitat for Humanity, KIPP Columbus, Wexner Heritage Village, Broad Street Food Pantry, Family Mentor Foundation, and Lifetown.
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.
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.
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. These same guidelines will apply to the summer trip as well.
The Summer 2022 trip is scheduled for Tuesday, June 7- Friday, June 10 in Pittsburgh, PA. Participation in the trip will be not be mandatory. In years past, each day of the trip has included 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 both unwind and have fun. We are still finalizing the schedule but will share it with all current WSC members and parents once it’s ready. Our goal is to have several different types of service sites that will enable the Corps to employ different skills and tap into the diverse range of passions our members possess. Some of our past work has included home repairs, gardening/farming, educational programming for elementary school students, advocacy, mural painting, and park cleaning. All trip costs will be covered at The Foundation’s expense.
The WSC is under the direction of Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnik, Wexner Service Corps program director. Traditionally, there are madrichim (counselors), including experienced OSU students and/or 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 sites.