UCLA students' first lesson: Service
Fifth annual Volunteer Day sends 7,400 Bruins into community
By Alison Hewitt September 19, 2013 Category: Campus News
Tuesday, thousands of new UCLA students will help out in K–12 classrooms, senior centers, public parks, food banks and shelters — in all, more than 50 different locations around greater Los Angeles — even before fall classes start.
More than 6,500 new UCLA students and more than 900 returning students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents and others will spread out across Los Angeles County for the fifth annual UCLA Volunteer Day, a massive service project that shares the Bruin spirit and lends a helping hand all over the region. Since 2009, Volunteer Day has introduced new freshmen and transfer students to the importance of serving the community and has been a centerpiece of UCLA's week of True Bruin Welcome activities.
The volunteers will tutor children, landscape schools, answer senior citizens' tech questions, clean hiking trails, sort food donations and more.
"UCLA has a long tradition of community service, and including new students in one of the nation's largest volunteer events during their first week on campus helps to teach them about our values and expectations," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "This one-day event is intended to inspire students to continue serving the community throughout their time at UCLA and after they graduate."
Students who participated in previous UCLA Volunteer Days are now helping UCLA organize the initiative, and some Bruins have been involved four or even all five years. UCLA senior Charlene Fernandez’s experiences led her to become so involved with the UCLA Volunteer Center that on Tuesday, she'll head the project at Leo Politi Elementary School in Koreatown, which has the highest percentage of low-income elementary students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. There, 200 volunteers will read books to students, talk to them about college, organize the library, and weed and landscape a street-side planter area, among other activities.
Politi students will also hear from Block and State Assembly Speaker John Perez at an assembly, and all 800 students will receive tote bags full of school supplies and dental hygiene kits from the nonprofit K to College.
UCLA's Volunteer Center organized similar projects at 51 other locations, covering all 15 Los Angeles City Council districts and throughout Los Angeles County. More than 120 buses will deliver students to locations like the Veteran's Administration Medical Center, Griffith Park, Watts Towers, the MEND Emergency Food Bank, the Salvation Army's Bessie Pregerson Child Development Center, more than two dozen schools, three senior centers and the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. All together, UCLA volunteers will contribute an estimated 35,000 hours of service in just one day.
"UCLA Volunteer Day is one of our biggest opportunities to give back to the city that makes this university great," said Rachel Corell, director of the Volunteer Center. "And although it is our largest volunteer event of the year, UCLA students are a dedicated bunch, so they'll be back at these sites again and again throughout the year — and, hopefully, after they graduate, too."