Students wanting to volunteer in the community surrounding University Park campus have more opportunities to do so.
After an increase in interest from participants, organizers of USC’s Friends and Neighbors Service Day have expanded the number of days from four per academic year to six.
“More and more students want to volunteer and give back to nonprofit partners and the community,” said Stephen Law, a student coordinator for the volunteer program. “We wanted to give students more opportunities to get involved.”
Sponsored by the USC Volunteer Center, Friends and Neighbors Service Day is one of USC’s most popular service programs. Event organizers contact local shelters, missions and community programs to design specific tasks for student volunteers who choose where they want to spend their day of service.
Over the years, student interest in the volunteer program has grown. More than 900 volunteers took part during the 2008-09 school year alone.
This academic year, Friends and Neighbors Service Day has been held in August, November and January. The next service day is set for Feb. 19.
Each activity falls into one of four categories: beautification, community gardening, friendly visiting, and mitigating hunger and homelessness.
Volunteers can do anything from helping the Los Angeles Police Department clean up graffiti to sorting supplies at the Downtown Women’s Center or talking to teenagers about college at the Blazer Youth Services Community Club.
In January, sophomore sociology major Sade Ojuola worked with Iridescent, a nonprofit that works to spark children’s desire to learn. The team of USC volunteers helped children and their families learn about science through demonstrations and hands-on exercises, such as building model airplanes and creating bug boxes.
Anthony Merrin, a freshman computer science major, spent the day working at the urban garden of Community Services Unlimited Inc., which fosters sustainable communities within Los Angeles.
“This was something that was interesting to me because I got to give back to my community outside of my job,” Merrin said. “It was really rewarding.”
Event organizers try to partner with the same organizations each time to build a lasting connection between students and the Los Angeles community. Law said one of the unique opportunities offered through Friends and Neighbors Service Day is the chance for students to return to the same locations for the next service day.
According to Law, many students also return to the locations to volunteer independently.
“Friends and Neighbors Day is a starting point for many students who have an interest in volunteering,” Law said. “There are so many community service-related student organizations on campus. It really makes students aware of how we can help and give back to the community in many ways.”
Those interested in participating in the Feb. 19 Friends and Neighbors Service Day can register online at sait.usc.edu/volunteerdb/Projects.aspx
The final service day of the academic year is scheduled on March 26.
To see a video about the volunteer program, visit youtube.com/watch?v=mxmHAv84Dwo