Volunteerism thriving among students
As she prepares to begin her second year as Director of the University Community Service Center, Michelle Obama says that the state of volunteerism on campus, always a significant part of overall student activities, is more than thriving -- it is happily developing beyond expectations.
"It is not just that there are more volunteer organizations on campus than ever before, which in itself is a cause for celebration," said Obama, "it is also that there is a more general awareness among students about the importance of volunteering."
Obama directs the University's efforts to make available to students a wide range of service opportunities in the neighborhoods around the University as well as throughout the city. She is assisted by UCSC Coordinator Aracely Munoz Contreras.
"Many of the facts and figures related to student work have been apocryphal," she said. "However, it is clear that more community service groups currently exist on campus than ever before."
Current community service groups with formal registered student organization status include the Alexandria Project, Giving Tree, HIV/AIDS Awareness Program, Alpha Phi Omega, Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam, Science and Math Achiever Teams (SMART), Strive, Community Partnership, Science Partners for Teachers, Student Teachers and CASA.
"There is a greater awareness on campus that a lot students are involved in volunteer work," said Phil Lenihan of the Alexandria Project, a volunteer tutoring program for middle-school students. "The University administration and Student Government have made admirable efforts to support the organizations that exist on campus to support student volunteerism."
As evidence of the current increase in interest in student volunteerism opportunities, Obama points to the recent response to the UCSC's new Summer Links program, an intensive 10-week internship for undergraduate and graduate students committed to public service, community building and social change.
More than 200 students applied for 30 paid internship positions with local public schools, non-profit organizations and community-based agencies throughout the city of Chicago. Equally impressive, said Obama, is the fact that more than 100 community organizations applied to be one of the 30 institutions offering internships.
"What is clear to us is that the work is out there and our students want this kind of work opportunity. It is our responsibility to ensure that they are offered as many opportunities as this office can help provide," Obama said.
Even more community-service opportunities will be available during the 1997-98 academic year, noted Obama, as a result of the recent announcement that a percentage of the Student Activities Fee would be allocated for a $30,000 Community Service Fund.
"The fund was established to encourage leaders of community-service registered student organizations and community leaders to work together to allocate resources," said Obama. "The goal is to maximize the benefit both to the students who participate in community service and the communities served by the University."
In recognition of the work of various volunteer organizations during the 1996-97 academic year, UCSC hosted its 1997 Spring Volunteer Recognition Reception in May.
More than 100 students, faculty and staff who volunteered significant time to helping a variety of causes and organizations were honored.
"The University has always honored the contributions that student volunteers have made to the campus and to the greater community," Obama said. "But with this year's event we are now recognizing the accomplishments of faculty and staff in volunteerism on campus. Our goal for the future is to ensure that all members of the University community know that they can use the UCSC as a resource for a whole range of volunteer opportunities."
At the event, President Sonnenschein presented the President's Volunteer Service Award to Hannah Chandler, a second-year student in the College, and Luisa Rebull, a graduate student in Astronomy & Astrophysics, for their commitment to service in the community during the past academic year.
Chandler is a team leader for Saturday Dreams, a tutoring program for girls ages 6 to 8 in the Washington Park area, and a founding committee member of Asset, a new student group aimed at increasing academic self-efficiency in ninth graders from local public schools. Rebull is a founding member and co-coordinator of Science Partners for Teachers, an organization that creates partnerships between University graduate students and Chicago Public Schools teachers who want to learn more about science and the Internet. She is also on the coordinating committee of the Chicago Public Schools/University of Chicago Internet Project (CUIP), whose goal is to connect local public schools to the Internet and help teachers use this resource more effectively.
Alpha Lillstrom and Joan Pierre, fourth-year students in the College, were recognized with the Perry Herst Prize. The prize is for two graduating College students who have combined study with social responsibility.
Pierre, who is concentrating in sociology, is the coordinator and a mentor for the Clever Girls program, a Washington Park Youth Program that works with high school sophomores to help them develop academically, personally and socially. She is also co-founder of Sistafriends, a support organization for women of color at the University, and is a program coordinator at Blue Gargoyle.
Lillstrom, who is concentrating in anthropology, is the coordinator for a community organization that provides a variety of support services to young adults on the South Side of Chicago, as well as a volunteer in the University of Chicago Community Partnership's literacy program for kindergartners in the Randolph Towers housing project.
For more information about volunteer opportunities, call the University Community Service Center, 753-GIVE.