September 17, 2009
In a major expansion of its commitment to community service, UCLA on Sept. 22 will deploy an army of 5,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students to eight public locations in Los Angeles to help clean up and brighten those sites.
Helping to accomplish this task will be 800 members of the UCLA family — including staff, faculty and alumni — led by Chancellor Gene Block, whose vision it was to create a UCLA “community of heroes” who will continue their good deeds well beyond their time on campus.
“We want our new students to know from the start that our goal is to lead them into a lifelong commitment to civic engagement,” said Block, who vowed upon becoming chancellor in 2007 to help make UCLA a national leader in volunteerism.
UCLA Volunteer Day, which will be held during UCLA’s True Bruin Welcome Week, will see 1,000 new students transported by bus to Griffith Park for trail repair, 1,000 to Point Dume in Malibu for beach clean-up, 500 to the Veterans Affairs hospital and cemetery in West Los Angeles for gardening and other assistance, and 500 to each of five Los Angeles Unified School District campuses for painting and other clean-up projects.
At Gompers Middle School in South Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a UCLA alumnus, will join Chancellor Block in welcoming the volunteers and organizers. The mayor and chancellor will then grab brushes to help in painting projects at the school. Also at the site will be Lisa Paulsen, CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which is sponsoring Volunteer Day.
In addition to Gompers, volunteers will be flooding the campuses of University High School in West Los Angeles, Contreras High School and Gratts Elementary School in downtown Los Angeles, and Kester Elementary School in Sherman Oaks.
On Sept. 21, the day before the event, the campus will launch the UCLA Volunteer Center, an online gateway for civic participation that will be available to all students, faculty, staff and alumni. The center will provide Bruins with a starting point to pursue a wide variety of volunteer efforts. More information may be found at http://volunteer.ucla.edu.
For Volunteer Day, 100 buses will be utilized to deliver students to their sites, a feat of logistics that has been months in the planning, according to Volunteer Center executive director Antoinette Mongelli and campaign director David Bloome, who helped organize Volunteer Day.
Bloome said he found “awe-inspiring” the effort to bring together thousands of UCLA students, staff, alumni and faculty “as a massive team to work toward the common goal of improving the lives of the citizens of our community.”
“All of these Welcome Week activities are geared to one thing, which is starting our students off on a path to volunteerism,” Mongelli said. “Being a Bruin means much more than getting your education at one of the nation’s greatest academic institutions. It means carrying into your life an in-your-bones dedication to public service.”
Student and alumni volunteers expressed excitement about this goal.
Jenn Hyman, a UCLA graduate who is managing task captains on Volunteer Day, said the idea of the event so amazed her that “being a part of it was not a choice,” while task captain Jennifer La, a second-year geography major, said she felt grateful for all that UCLA had given her and wanted to do something in return. Site leader Philip DeSouza, a senior studying psychobiology, said that having Volunteer Day focus on incoming students sets a precedent that “service in the community is something we, the university, value here and will continue to support.”
The UCLA Volunteer Center is being funded by The UCLA Foundation. Volunteer Day was organized in partnership with L.A. Works, a volunteer action center that fosters community service projects, and is being made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF). Hollywood’s leading charity, EIF has launched a multiyear campaign called “iParticipate” to inspire action and promote a new way of thinking about service. The campaign will include an unprecedented, weeklong television event that begins Oct. 19 and involves ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and other broadcast networks.
“We feel our industry is uniquely positioned to ignite a service movement in this country,” said EIF’s Paulsen. “UCLA’s commitment to making service a part of its university culture is an inspiration to us all. We hope others across the country will be motivated to do whatever they can for the greater good.”
Also during Welcome Week’s schedule of barbecues, academic open houses and floor meetings, new students will gather to discuss Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.” The book, which tells of Farmer’s ongoing dedication to solving global health problems, was provided to incoming freshmen and transfer students during the summer. Discussions will take place in the campus residence halls.
Classes for all students begin Thursday, Sept. 24.
Block said that Volunteer Day, the Volunteer Center and the study of Kidder’s book are extensions of the strong commitment of the UCLA family to serving others, including helping the homeless, donating blood, tutoring children and giving time to museums, hospitals and libraries.
“With the exciting events we are bringing to Welcome Week, we are pumping up the volume on that already strong commitment,” he said.
UCLA is California’s largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university’s 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 323 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.