Student Volunteers group

Culture of Service

Discover service at Abington and discover an extended family that values your talents. Groups like THON, Black Student Union and the Education Club will motivate you to commit to meaningful work to benefit who are less fortunate.
By: Regina Broscius
The Penn State Abington community supports people struggling with hunger, homelessness, and other issues on our own campus and from Philadelphia and beyond.

Many student organizations pitched in to contribute their talents for Nittany Service Day in Fall 2018. Men of Color, THON, Sister 2 Sister, Education Club and Black Student Union created blankets, designed cancer awareness ribbons, supplied school supplies and made sandwiches.

student group holding blanket

Proud Sister-2-Sister members hold up one of the blankets they were working on during Nittany Service Day in October 2018 on Sutherland Plaza.

Credit: Jim Hopf

The Penn State Abington LionShare food pantry opened its doors in April 2017 at a crucial time for students struggling with hunger. A campus-wide survey confirmed an increase in hunger toward the end of each semester when student loans and other money often run short.

food pantry service

The LionShare food pantry opened in April 2017.

Credit: Regina Broscius

Three Philadelphia region news stations including NBC10 and 6ABC joined the campus community for the LionShare opening, speaking to students and Fran Pahlevani, the associate professor of mathematics who led the pantry project.

"We hope that every student and person in need who is part of our community finds relief from the incredible pressures of food insecurity," Pahlevani said.

The LionShare emerged from the concerns of Abington faculty and staff who knew of students experiencing food hardship. John Thompson, lecturer in art and one of the coordinators of LionShare, said it’s a hidden problem.

“We learned that faculty and staff were providing opportunities for students to obtain free food and an increasing number of students were using these resources,” he said.

education majors service

Penn State Abington education majors fill donated handbags with toiletries and other items for women at Laurel House, a shelter for women and families living under the threat of domestic violence.


Credit: Pam Brobst

The Education Club at Penn State Abington collected more than 60 purses for Laurel House, a shelter for students dealing with domestic violence. In return, a Laurel House staffer shared how teachers can support students and families. 

students day of service

Painting homes at the Interfaith Housing Alliance in nearby Ambler.

Credit: Pam Brobst

It's a tradition at Abington that some students spend spring break and other off days working in soup kitchens, tackling building projects, and lending an ear to the less fortunate.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is one of the most visible service opportunities. COW (Community Outreach Workers) coordinates students interested in making local connections. 

refugee camp

Penn State Abington student Ayra Siddiq said the Afghan refugees live in isolation — a bubble — with little education and very limited options. The camp, managed by the United Nations, sits just outside the capital of Pakistan.

Credit: Penn State

Ayra Siddiq, an economics and film major, discovered firsthand the plight of refugees after visiting a camp just outside the Pakistani capital.

"Life in the camp is dire," she said. "The refugees live in mud houses with minimal access to running water, proper kitchen, sewage, electricity — all things we take for granted. Winters are harsh as well." 

She presents powerful images and stories to audiences, urging them to be the voice of the refugees.

"This issue does not have an easy solution, but I hope that our generation can become the leaders that the world needs to help those in need.  I want to give them tools they need to live a better life." — Ayra Siddiq

Ayra plans a career that attacks these probles on multiple levels: directing films tied to social issues as well humanitarian work and an international law degree.

MLK day

Abington students often head into Philadelphia and other nearby towns for service projects. 

Credit: Pamela Brobst

Service equals family at Abington, sometimes in the traditional sense such as siblings Lauren and Nick Blair. Lauren learned about the culture of engagement at the Involvement Fair, which highlights clubs and activities. She volunteers with several community-oriented groups nurtured through the Office of Student Life and quickly became a key member.

"I found my passion by being involved on campus and focusing on my studies." — Lauren Blair

For many others at Abington, it's the family they choose. ENACTUS (Entrepreneurial Action by Us) members, for example, forge bonds through hours of shepherding sustainability projects to completion. They purchased a specialized printer and assembled 3D limbs while they were on campus and at home.


Alternative Spring Break: Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota

Kaltra Bani, a sophomore at Penn State Abington, recalls how her recent Alternate Spring Break to a Native American reservation in South Dakota changed her perspective.

Credit: Jim Hopf

Organizations such as Community Outreach Workers, Abington THON, and Alternative Spring Break offer varying levels of commitment and experiences. But all provide hands-on service an opportunities for reflection and connection with people beyond the campus. 

Alternative Spring Break takes students to New Orleans, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. They return with new perspectives and a renewed sense of gratitude and purpose. And the students struggled with the dichotomy of so many people struggling to find food and housing in one of the most powerful countries in the world.

Women's basketball

Abington students athletes performed fall yard work for local cancer patients during Make A Difference Day.

Credit: Penn State

Community Engagement at Abington

The Office of Student Life provides many opportunities to become involved in the community, to learn more about yourself, and to experience firsthand a variety of issues affecting both our community and our society. 

See how you can get involved through the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership (SEAL).