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Student’s Service Is a Lesson in Leadership

Billy Spies creates a special blog to track the progress of UC’s annual projects with Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity.

Date: 9/15/2008
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: UC/Habitat for Humanity
Billy Spies of Sharonville, a UC Honors student and second-year electrical engineering major, jumped in and volunteered one Saturday last fall with the UC/Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity partnership to build affordable housing for families in the Uptown. He hasn’t stopped since. Spies volunteered through the summer to put the final touches on UC’s fifth university-wide build with Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity, and he created the new “UC Habitat Happenings” blog to share information and updates on this UC commitment to build community.
Billy Spies
Billy Spies

A group of 20 UC freshmen enrolled in a University Honors English course got a jump- start on UC’s sixth build with Cincinnati Habitat two weeks before classes on Sept. 24. The Habitat Happenings” blog will follow the progress of construction in this unique build to provide a home to better serve families with disabilities.

“Every Saturday that the volunteers work at the site, I’m hoping to get reports and commentary and a description of the house to report on the blog,” Spies says. “Through the blog, we’ll be able to share community interviews and report about the people going about their work and about the progress of the house. We’ll also be able to better report on what was accomplished and what needs to be accomplished from week-to-week, so that volunteers and site hosts will know what to expect from Saturday to Saturday,” says Spies.

Spies’ 17-year-old sister, Carey, a senior at Cincinnati Christian High School, designed the look of the blog. She’s considering a future career in graphic design. Billy’s service also fulfills his 30-hour-per-year service commitment for his Cincinnatus Century scholarship. He is also an Ohio Regency Scholar.

2007-08 Habitat project

Spies is one of 1,800 UC students taking part in the University Honors Program that enriches the educational experience of UC’s academically talented students through coursework and out-of-the-classroom activities. In and out of the classroom, the University Honors Program emphasizes themes of community engagement, global studies, leadership, research and creative arts.

Spies’ commitment to service will also be fueled by the new living quarters he’ll be moving into just across the street from campus. Spies is moving into the Community Engagement Leadership house, located above UC’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at the university-affiliated Stratford Heights Community on Clifton Avenue. The suite-style housing emphasizes UC|21 efforts to build 24/7 learning, living and social environments. By living close to the CCE, students in this living community have a resource for service activities, plus, they learn about leadership development through trainings and service activities.

“I’ve learned a great deal through volunteering with the Habitat partnership,” he says. “I know how to put on a roof truss and install banisters and everything like that. In addition to that, serving as site host has taught me how to delegate. I’ve really learned how to take responsibility and help new volunteers build their confidence and accept more responsibility.”

Spies says he chose to major in UC’s College of Engineering because it kept him close to home and it provided valuable cooperative education experience, which was pioneered by UC in 1906.

“The campus here is beautiful,” he says. “The facilities are great, and I haven’t met a student who has rubbed me the wrong way – I have met a lot of personable, likeable people here.”

Habitat volunteers

As new students get set to start on campus this fall, Spies says that as a freshman last year, he didn’t encounter as many questions as a new student as he had anticipated he would. “I’ve found just about everything I needed on line, or I’ve stopped by the One Stop Student Center at University Pavilion.”

He says that once he graduates from UC, he’ll likely continue to stop by the future UC/Habitat builds. “After every Saturday of work, you come away from it knowing that you’ve improved the house and someone’s life in some way. It’s very rewarding.”

“Habitat Happenings” blog

UC Center for Community Engagement

University Honors Program