Community Service With a Smile
Published Sep 18, 2012 8:00 AM
Los Angeles, be forewarned: During your morning commute on September 25, you might have to share the road with busloads of young Bruins wearing matching blue and gold T-shirts and doing the Eight-Clap.
Be patient. But, mostly, be proud: These students – freshmen and transfers – will be en route to schools, parks, food banks and other community sites to participate in the fourth annual UCLA Volunteer Day, a vital part of True Bruin Welcome Week.
The “largest new-student service event of its kind in the nation,“ according to UCLA Volunteer Center Director Rachel Corell, Volunteer Day started in 2009 with eight service projects. That inaugural event launched the Volunteer Center and signaled Chancellor Gene Block’s strong belief in civic engagement, adding service to the existing True Bruin values of integrity, excellence, accountability and respect.
This year, about 6,500 new students will board 130 buses – half were donated by local politicians – and fan out across all 15 Los Angeles City Council districts, ready to paint, landscape, feed the needy and provide other wish-list services. The 50-plus community partners are more than double the number from 2011.
“Last year, a lot of the projects focused on parks and schools, where we did beautification work,” Corell says. “This year, we’re continuing to do that, but we’re adding much more interactive projects” These include reading and participating in P.E. at elementary schools, going-to-college mentorship at high schools and technology instruction at senior centers.
Guiding and supporting the new Bruins will be about 600 other volunteers – returning students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and community members. Among them will be UCLA seniors Danny Duel and Matt Rosenstein, Volunteer Center Fellows who, as freshmen in 2009, were eager participants in the first Volunteer Day.
“I thought it was just so cool that my first chance to meet everyone [in the dorm] would be a service project,” Rosenstein says.
For Duel, “it was just another reason for me to go out and have that extra push to make sure I go and find opportunities around campus to get myself involved.”
This year, both Volunteer Day veterans chose to be project leaders at homeless shelters, where they’ll introduce a new class of UCLA students to community service Bruin style.
“It’s great seeing the new students’ excitement. You get to relive that experience with them,” Duel says. “They bring a whole new energy every year.”
And come away with a new sense of the world around them. “They go into [Volunteer Day] just excited to be on campus, excited to be meeting people,” notes Rosenstein, “and they leave realizing that as Bruins we can make a huge impact in the community.”