'Commitment to Community's
Through volunteer service, new students bond with community and each other The Hyde Park-South Kenwood and Woodlawn communities are a little cleaner and the University-community bonds of friendship a little stronger, thanks to "Commitment to Community," an Orientation activity held for the first time this year. Almost 1,000 entering College students devoted the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 23, to community-service projects -- including cleaning up the lagoon in Jackson Park, replanting the Cornell Oasis garden, helping to organize the Blackstone Bicycle Co-op and working with elderly, homeless and teenage neighbors on the South Side.
"Commitment to Community" was organized by fourth-year student Bryan Lockett, Assistant to the Director of Orientation, who spent the summer contacting community groups and handling the logistics of the project.
The project was a success on several levels, Lockett said. "Beyond just helping people out, this has made the students more aware of the larger community around Hyde Park. For example, about 150 students -- one-seventh of the new entering class -- have now spent an afternoon cleaning up Jackson Park and have seen what a great park it is, and maybe they'll continue to go there and enjoy it."
The students were divided up into teams of 11, each headed by an Orientation Aide, and dispersed to more than two dozen locations throughout the community. The largest contingent, 33 teams, helped Friends of the Parks clean up Jackson Park, Washington Park, the Point and the 63rd Street beach. Smaller groups helped out at shelters such as Clara's House and St. Martin de Porres House of Hope, helped renew lots with the Resource Center and Youthnet Center, and planted flowers along the railway.
Lockett said the response from community groups who provided activities for the volunteers was enthusiastic. "Some of the groups also recruited people from their communities, so that students were working side-by-side with the people who live there. And already a lot of groups are asking about next year."
The idea for the event came from Orientation Director Jean Treese. "I felt that our students needed to be introduced to their new neighborhood in a way that was different from what we've done in the past," Treese said. "This event not only introduced them to Hyde Park-South Kenwood and to surrounding neighborhoods on the South Side, but it sent a loud message that community service is something the University values.
"I think, too, it is the type of project that helps foster friendships among students. This kind of project is a feel-good experience, and everyone feels good when they do something selfless together."
The idea also emerged in response to students' interests, Treese added. "More and more first-year students already have a background in volunteerism and are interested in continuing in community service," she said.
Students can learn more about volunteer opportunities and the South Side community at "Celebration of Community," on Saturday, Oct. 7, in Ida Noyes Hall. The event will begin at 7 p.m. with a panel discussion on students' commitment to the community surrounding the University. Moderated by Alison Boden, Dean of Rockefeller Chapel, the panel will include Fourth Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Arnie Duncan, Director of the Ariel Foundation, and student service organization leaders.
From 8 p.m. to midnight, service organization representatives will distribute information and recruit volunteers. Food will be served by three South Side restaurants, and three area bands will entertain. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the President's Office, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the College, the Student Activities Office and the Reynolds Club Office.
For more information, call the University Community Service Center at 753-GIVE.
-- Diana Steele