Herbst: UConn Reaching Out to the Community

About 50 undergraduates volunteering in New Orleans were among hundreds of UConn students taking part in service projects all over the country during spring break. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)

About 50 undergraduates volunteering in New Orleans were among hundreds of UConn students taking part in service projects all over the country during spring break. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)

From offering assistance for an afternoon on a local farm to taking part in hands-on service projects all over the country, UConn students never cease to amaze me with their dedication to serving the community.

We strive to shape our students into engaged citizens, who will work to improve the lives of others, give of themselves to those in need, and contribute their time and talents to our increasingly diverse society. Without a doubt, they seldom disappoint and go on to represent UConn well long after they graduate.

With the spring semester in full swing, I continue to be astounded by the number of student-led volunteer efforts ongoing across the University.

Pauline Elmore was one of the UConn student volunteers who worked in the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans on a project organized by Community Collaborations International. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)

Pauline Elmore was one of the UConn student volunteers who worked in the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans on a project organized by Community Collaborations International. (Bret Eckhardt/UConn Photo)

Take, for instance, a recent 18-hour charity dance-a-thon – known as the largest student-run fundraiser in the state of Connecticut – through which UConn students raised a record $304,375 for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Or, consider the students who visited locations nationwide over last week’s spring break, choosing to spend their week off working in places like New Orleans on construction jobs that will aid families affected by Hurricane Katrina. Not to mention UConn’s Red Cross Club, which is currently in the midst of one campus-wide blood drive – open through today – and will also be hosting a separate weeklong blood drive next month, from April 9 to 13.

Giving back can mean joining in a one-time volunteer event or getting involved for the longer term through any of the many community service fraternities, clubs, or various semester-long programs here at UConn. It can be as easy as donating your old sneakers to Mount Sneaker, which go to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program to be recycled into running tracks and playgrounds, or giving blood that will one day go to someone whose life will inevitably depend on it.

To our students, as well as to our faculty and staff across the University community, I am incredibly thankful for the terrific volunteer work that you do, and I urge you to keep your eyes out for all kinds of volunteer opportunities throughout the rest of the spring semester.

We are here at UConn not only to grow academically, but to take whatever chances we have before us to grow in our compassion for others. Your energy and generosity help enrich our entire community each day, and I commend you for it.