AUSTIN KLAWITTER | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Butler University’s annual Bulldogs Into the Streets program, commonly referred to as BITS, set a record this year with over 1,600 participants — over a 100-person increase from last year’s record-breaking numbers.
BITS’s mission is to make a meaningful impact on the Indianapolis community while simultaneously fostering individual growth and enabling positive relationships within the Indianapolis and Butler communities.
On Aug. 25, Butler students, faculty, staff and alumni dispersed throughout the city. The program has grown exponentially since 2015, when it opened to the entire Butler community.
Due to heavy thunderstorms this year, a number of sites were closed, and though there were initial delays in getting everyone to their sites, participation and spirits remained high.
Andrew Stinson, a first-year software engineering major, was a member of one of the few groups able to work outside at the William A. Bell Lab School No. 60. Stinson assisted with basic landscaping in a school courtyard.
“It’s definitely difficult [being outside] and we are getting soaked, but it is also fun and we are having a blast,” he said. “It’s something we get to brag about to the other groups — getting to work outside, pushing tires around. It’s a good time.”
Stinson worked alongside President James Danko and Frank Ross, vice president of student affairs. Though Danko has participated in BITS every year since joining the university eight years ago, it is only Ross’s second year at Butler and at BITS.
“This was the first location I went to last year at my first BITS, and I absolutely fell in love with the school,” Ross said. “My son actually started here this year. Our College of Education does such a good job working with IPS to make this such a special school. Not only as the VP of student affairs, but as a proud parent I am happy to be here as well.”
Butler’s College of Education works in conjunction with the IPS Lab School to facilitate its curriculum and assessment development. The current principal of the school, Ron Smith, is a two-time Butler alumnus and directed his gratitude towards the help BITS offers.
“To see so many students every year come out and be all over the city doing great things, helping different community organizations, businesses, schools; it is good to see them giving to the community,” Smith said. “As a Butler grad I know how much this community gave to me while I was a student and since I’ve graduated.”
Unlike at the lab school, many groups worked indoors at sites around the city. Sophomore accounting major Brittany Walther worked at a branch of the Indianapolis Public Library, disinfecting and cleaning toys for children.
“I made a couple of friends through BITS [last year],” Walther said. “Even though I have not really talked to them recently, it was nice to get to know other students on campus.”
Ben Jamison, first-year marketing major, was also at the library and sorted various materials that could be checked out. Jamison is not from Indiana and said he enjoyed the opportunity to explore and contribute to the Indianapolis community he has only recently become a part of.
“It’s really about embracing the city that’s around the campus,” Jamison said. “It is always good to be active in your community. It’s not a one-day thing where you can change the world or community in a day. It is about continuing to be active in the community, seeing students caring and wanting to be a part of something bigger.”
Butler has placed increased emphasis on service and community, making it one of the eight dimensions of the newly branded BUBeWell. This will work in conjunction with Butler’s recent creation of a new position within the office of student affairs — the director of civic engagement and social justice.
“It was created because a part of the student experience should be service and community work,” Ross said. “Bringing this new director on board will expand BITS and hopefully create meaningful opportunities for service throughout the year.”
As Butler continues to expand service opportunities on campus and in the Indianapolis community, Butler also set a BITS record with a total of nine national BITS sites for those in the Butler community across the United States. These sites included: Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Aurora, Libertyville, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, New York, Evansville and the Bay Area.
President James Danko expressed his own gratitude and excitement about the increasing number of national BITS participants.
“It is so great to know there are other cities participating today,” Danko said. “We may not feel it as much because they’re not in our backyard to go visit, but it is spreading the energy across the country and continuing to draw them into the community even though they are at a distance.”
Danko expressed pride in the opportunity to show the Indianapolis community the real and tangible change Butler and BITS makes.
“With my job, I end up at a lot of events, and this week was at a huge dinner recognizing the international citizen of the year, so I end up talking to the mayor, governor, city leaders, corporate leaders,” Danko said. “They talk so much about the impact Butler is making and this is a tangible thing I am able to say to them: ‘Hey, do you realize this Saturday you’re going to see over 1,600 Butler people in the streets of Indianapolis giving back to the community?’”