Campus honored by President Obama for community service

Amid talk of Picnic Day violence, Cynthia Goldberg will tell you what sets UC Davis apart is not the debauchery that shrouded campus on Picnic Day, but the university’s common interest in serving the community. UC Davis students gave 430,000 hours of community service during the 2008-2009 academic year, earning UC Davis a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Amid talk of Picnic Day violence, Cynthia Goldberg will tell you what sets UC Davis apart is not the debauchery that shrouded campus on Picnic Day, but the university’s common interest in serving the community.

UC Davis students gave 430,000 hours of community service during the 2008-2009 academic year, earning UC Davis a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Aliyah Abdullah is one of 7,000 students who committed her free time to service efforts. Abdullah, a UC Davis law school student and director of community service for the Black Law Students Association coordinated programs in impoverished communities in Oakland and San Francisco to teach fifth through eight graders about law.

“Some of them had low self-esteem in the beginning,” Abdullah said about the mock trials and opening statements the children practiced. “It was amazing to see the transformation by the end of the day. They were so proud.”

The Community Service Resource Center (CSRC), a branch of the Internship and Career Center, informs over 5,000 UC Davis students of community service opportunities via its listserv and holds three weekends of service per year.

Universities honored were chosen based on the scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation, incentives for service and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses. CSRC surveyed service activities on campus and pulled information from clubs to submit for review to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Last week, CSRC announced outstanding members of the campus community who will be recognized for their involvement in community service.

Those who were chosen for the highest recognition are the spark of the group; they are the people who inspire the other members, said Goldberg, supervisor of CSRC.

HIV/AIDS researcher Koen Vanrompay is one of six who will be honored by the CSRC for outstanding community service at a May 12 reception.

Vanrompay dedicates his free time to Sahaya International, a non-profit organization founded in 1999. Based in Davis, Sahaya International provides assistance to social development projects in developing nations and is run completely through volunteer efforts.

Since its creation, Sahaya raised approximately $700,000, including an $110,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Through HIV/AIDS education and medical help, children who were on the verge of death at the time of the organization’s founding are now planning on attending college.

Initially only two small huts served as schools for nine children in a village six hours south of Chennai, India. Now, a large school accommodating 300 has replaced the huts.

“It’s touching to see the children in their school uniforms,” Vanrompay said. “When you know how to spend your money wisely [on helping others] you know how to live – I have gained so much friendship.”

Sahaya International raised $800 on Picnic Day and has a charity walk scheduled for October 2010.

In addition to the community service opportunities from the CSRC, the UCD School of Medicine runs six community health clinics in Sacramento and the Graduate School of Management provides free consulting services to non-profit organizations.

“Something about our campus is more service-conscious than anywhere else I’ve been,” Abdullah said.

GABRIELLE GROW can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.