UCLA Volunteer Day is a cornerstone of the UCLA experience. It is the nation’s largest community participation event for new students, and occurs on the Tuesday of True Bruin Welcome Week in September. Before students attend their first class, first year freshmen and transfer students join together with continuing undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and community members to visit more than 50 sites across greater Los Angeles. Reaching out to every city council district, volunteers give service at K-12 schools, food banks, parks, shelters, veterans’ facilities, and neighborhood centers. Over 7,000 Bruins participate each year, which creates an immediate impact on both the participant and site, and the event has been featured in print and internet news media both locally and nationally.
This annual turkey dinner provides a warm meal as well as food and supplies to take away during the long weekend for up to 100 needy UCLA students and their families. This event has been created and produced through volunteer time of staff and students of UCLA, and the food, venue, centerpieces, music, and other supplies are donated through various campus departments, student organizations, and volunteers.
The UCLA Food Drive, hosted by UCLA Transportation, collects goods and funds for both the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and the UCLA Food Closet, a UCLA Community Programs Office program that provides struggling students a helping hand. In previous years, over 42,000 pounds of food donations have been collected to benefit individuals and families in need. The Center helps to host bins and sort collections all around campus, as well as promoting the collection as a resource to UCLA community members.
Non-profit Networking Night connects UCLA students to public service professionals who are currently recruiting for open internships and jobs in the non-profit sector. Hosted by the Volunteer Center, USAC Community Service Commission, Career Center, and Office of Residential Life (ORL), the evening features speed networking activities and the opportunity to sit down with professionals and other UCLA students.
UCLA leads the nation in volunteering, and each year Bruins contribute to hundreds of thousands of hours of community service. Volunteer Appreciation Week is an extension of a national campaign to celebrate the people and organizations participating in community service across America. During this week, the UCLA Volunteer Center recognizes the service efforts of volunteers and campus groups that make a difference in communities across Greater Los Angeles.
Using the momentum and enthusiasm for civic engagement that arises from Volunteer Day, the Center sends a bus filled with volunteers into the community in order to address specific needs in that area. Through partnerships with other non-profits and outside organizations, this program addresses a different cause and organization with each visit to expose Bruins to a sampling platter of volunteer opportunities to pique volunteers’ interest in programs they could work with on an ongoing basis.
Project SPELL, Students for Progress in Employee Language Learning, is a support service for UCLA employees who are non-native English speakers. This program matches UCLA employee learners with student volunteer tutors to accomplish English language learning goals as expressed by the learners. Volunteer tutors deliver personalized lessons to one UCLA employee, twice a week throughout the academic quarter, and receive training sessions, ample teaching resources, and a flourishing peer network. From this experience, tutors develop critical teaching and communication skills while building a mutually beneficial relationship with a vital member of the UCLA community.
United States military service members in hostile regions around the world receive thousands of hand-written letters and care packages from UCLA each year in partnership with Operation Gratitude, a volunteer-run non-profit group based in Van Nuys. For some soldiers, this is the only contact they have with home, and the partnership strives to demonstrate recognition of, and appreciation for, military members’ service and sacrifice. The Center works year-round with campus departments and organizations to introduce students to the program. Operation Gratitude has sent over one million care packages since 2003, and UCLA is the first large-scale university the organization has paired with to increase these efforts.
UCLA External Affairs has adopted the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to show the staff commitment to service in the Los Angeles community. Each month, a different department of External Affairs visits the downtown food bank to sort, inspect, and clean food for distribution, and to assemble food packages that go to children, senior citizens, and women with infants across Los Angeles County.
The UCLA Volunteer Center is taking a novel approach in fulfilling the university’s pillars of education, research, and service while exposing students with special needs to cutting edge research. The event provides students with special needs (namely Autism, Down’s Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy) from the Pathway at UCLA Extension program the chance to attend a professor research symposium and learn about some of the most acclaimed research taking place at UCLA in a variety of fields.
To continue the strong ties between the Center and the student population, the Volunteer Center Fellows program creates opportunities for student leadership in the planning and management of civic engagement projects. Each spring, a new group of students are chosen to serve for thirteen months to work with the Center to plan the year’s agenda and attend regular meetings with staff and advisors. Fellows come from a variety of community and leadership perspectives at UCLA and in the Los Angeles community. The Fellows serve as an advisory board that works with the Center to increase the accessibility of civic engagement opportunities by developing resources, support systems, and projects for students and campus service organizations.
The UCLA Volunteer Center offers students an opportunity to be creative and experiment with technology and social media in promoting civic engagement. Interns assist expansion in the web space and reach out to students on campus, developing skills in areas such as communication, technology, group collaboration, and community outreach. Enthusiastic students with interests in social media, video, photography, graphic design, and/or journalism are organized into teams and creatively combine their interests with their passion for service. Working with Volunteer Center staff and guest speakers from the non-profit community, students learn about the various aspects of non-profit outreach while supporting their University.
The Student Committee of Project SPELL is responsible for promoting connections between students within Project SPELL as well as across campus. Their purpose is to create a tighter bond between tutors and to help Project SPELL develop and grow into a stronger organization. The Student Committee serves to provide a voice for the students in Project SPELL and to address the concerns and needs of the student tutors.
The Center’s Volunteer Leadership Program gives undergraduate students an opportunity to work directly with the Center by planning and leading their own One Bus, One Cause community service projects in the Los Angeles community. Project Leaders maintain important relationships between the university and their designated community partners while gaining valuable leadership and professional skills applicable to any career. Many projects serve as follow-up to the work done at the previous September’s Volunteer Day service sites.
The Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement (formerly the Bruin Heroes Award) recognizes innovative and inspiring projects organized by UCLA organizations. Every day, thousands of students participate in service projects around Los Angeles. As a public institution, UCLA is dedicated to service and values the hard work of these Bruins and the passion motivating their endeavors. The goal of this award is to shine a light on these efforts. The Mongelli Award is presented by the Volunteer Center Fellows, and award recipients are selected from among a pool of nominations compiled by a group of chief campus advisors. Winners of the award receive recognition and support from the Volunteer Center as well as a monetary award.