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Students offer services to community organizations

May 1st, 2008

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Lauren Bean, foreground, and Rebecca O’Neill walk dogs at Metro Animal Services.

By Todd Wetzel

As a member of the larger Louisville community, the University of Louisville places a high priority on using its resources to strengthen and transform the local community. Participating in public service projects is common for UofL students, but some students took their involvement a step further this semester by organizing group days and, in some cases, embracing often-overlooked causes.

UofL’s Brandeis School of Law coordinated its first community service day April 5. The idea came about when students voiced interest in a school-wide community service project during the school’s strategic planning process last year.

“Usually, students complete their public service individually,” said the law librarian Virginia Smith, who helped organize the event. “Students wanted a collective community service project where faculty, staff and students worked together to foster a sense of teamwork and help the community.”

Thirty-six students, staff and faculty participated in on-site volunteer opportunities with Metro Animal Services, Wayside Christian Mission and Brightside Inc. To involve as many people as possible, students placed bins in the school’s lobby the week leading up to the community service day to collect items for Metro Animal Services, Center for Women and Families, Project Women and Metro Recycling.

Second-year law student Megan Renwick coordinated the day’s service projects with Metro Animal Services. Projects included painting the room where people get acquainted with the pets they may adopt, washing food bowls, giving medical treatments to animals, walking dogs and taking digital photos of animals for an identification database.

“Because I already volunteer for Metro Animal Services, I knew that the agency needed help,” she said. “I think we have the opportunity to make an impact on the community and use our positions to make things better.”

Nearly 100 more students participated in the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice’s Just Act Day March 29. The students worked on various projects with the Ronald McDonald House, Brightside, Wayside Christian Mission, Louisville Nature Center and New Directions Housing Corp.

“We began Just Act Day as a way to teach activism and community involvement, and it has certainly been a useful vehicle for that,” said Al Herring, Ali Institute director. “In the last three years, hundreds of students, faculty and staff have made a connection to service and extended what is good about the university into the local community.”

Some community service, though, can come about unexpectedly. Each year, the College of Education and Human Development’s sport administration program has an annual golf scramble to fund sport administration scholarships. But when the students learned that Atkinson Elementary School’s physical education classes lacked basic sporting equipment, they dedicated $500 of the event’s proceeds this year for the cause.

“When we learned that Atkinson’s students didn’t have enough basic sports equipment, such as jump ropes and kickballs,for use in physical education classes, we thought it was a perfect community service opportunity for sport administration majors,” said sport administration student Shannon Fischer.

Community service can have a long-lasting impact, not just on those receiving the service, but also on those conducting the service.

Six of the 15 people who volunteered at Metro Animal Services told Renwick they were so moved by the experience that they attended a volunteer orientation to continue volunteering at the agency. Two others returned later to adopt pets.

“The service really did have an effect on people,” she said.

Related Links
Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice
Brandeis School of Law

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