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An Army of Volunteers


By Alison Hewitt

Published Sep 22, 2009 3:58 PM


UCLA volunteers fill in a "Where the Wild Things Are" mural at Kester Elementry School.

"I haven't gotten up this early all summer," yawned Monique Ho, a new freshman in the middle of her orientation week at UCLA. On her schedule Sept. 22: waking up at 7 a.m. to be part of a massive volunteer effort with 4,300 of her new friends, fellow UCLA first-years.

"It was so hard to get up — a bunch of us were up talking in the lounge and playing games until 1:30 a.m. — but this is really cool," Ho said as she helped clear brush on overgrown trails at Point Dume State Beach. "In high school, so many people just did volunteer work to get into college, to put it on their application. That's what makes today so special – now you know everyone's doing it for a good reason."

In what is believed to be the nation's largest-ever university-organized volunteer day, an army of 4,300 UCLA freshmen and transfer students fanned out across Los Angeles to make the city a better place. For UCLA's first Volunteer Day, nearly 1,000 students began trail repair at Griffith Park, 1,000 more tackled beach clean-up at Point Dume and about 500 each beautified the Veterans Affairs hospital and five Los Angeles Unified School District campuses.


UCLA students clearing away brush and surprisingly large litter at Griffith Park.

From Griffith Park and Point Dume to LAUSD schools across L.A., spirited eight-claps broke out repeatedly as new students dove into the day of service.

For the students, it was an opportunity to give back to the community, but also to bond with each other. They rode in 100 big yellow school buses, singing songs and — for some — catching a glimpse of Los Angeles for the first time. Although many were in a haze from the early-morning wake-up call, students on of the many buses trundling to Griffith park gazed with bleary-eyed awe at Sunset Boulevard before arriving at the park to clear away litter and flammable brush in view of the iconic Hollywood sign.

"Being a Bruin means much more than getting your education at one of the nation's greatest academic institutions," said Antoinette Mongelli, executive director of UCLA's new Volunteer Center, which organized the event. "It means carrying into your life an in-your-bones dedication to public service."

Read the complete article in UCLA Today.