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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Paying it forward


Simple acts of kindness make an impact on the campus community

The act of selfless giving is a valuable skill that is picked up from observing other people’s interactions with one another, rather than being conventionally taught in the classroom.

UC Davis students have unique opportunities to learn how powerful selfless giving can be. While students are not explicitly taught the art of giving in school, there are classes, like Flower Power: the Application of Art and Science of the Beauty of Flowers (PLS 6), that show students how to make an impact.

Professor of environmental horticulture Heiner Leith created PLS 6 originally as a freshmen seminar. However, it became so popular that it was eventually turned into a two-unit class. For one assignment, the students are given a potted plant to give to someone else and observe the impact the gift makes.

“I don’t tell them what to do, the only instruction that they have is that they have to make an impact and write about it,” Leith said. “The assignment is pretty analytical, but what happens on their end is quite profound sometimes.”

Beth Beyer, a fourth-year environmental science and management major, participated in this assignment and found it to be highly rewarding.

“It makes me feel really great,” Beyer said. “I love being the reason that someone feels good about something and I really liked the fact that this class gave me something to then give to someone else so that I could make someone else feel good.”

Lana Saykali, a fourth-year environmental science and management major, also believes that giving small gifts to others, such as flowers, can leave a powerful and positive impact.

“I think we wanted to share the importance of flowers and how giving someone flowers can make them feel special in a certain way,” Saykali said. “Writing about that was really cool.”

Part of Leith’s purpose behind the course is creating opportunities for students to learn and grow. In PLS 6, the learning goes far beyond the classroom.

“The bottom line is that it’s magnetic,” Leith said. “It pulls people in, I can’t explain why people are sucked into [the class] the way they are — I mean I think I’m a good teacher, but it’s something about the topic.”

Not all students are prompted by their classes to do kind acts, but ASUCD also runs programs like the ASUCD Pantry to help get students involved in giving back to and helping others.

According to Clarabella Li, a fourth-year chemistry and forensics major, the Pantry not only helps students meet their needs, but it also gets other student groups involved with volunteering and donating.

“We do this program where organizations, like staff department organizations, student organizations like fraternities, sororities or other health organizations send a number of volunteers throughout the week so they can kind of learn about the Pantry and gain volunteer experience,” Li said. “Some people are kind of just blown away by what the Pantry is and what they do that they end up wanting to further help the Pantry by joining in a lot of donations and food drives so that is also really cool.”

While ASUCD sets aside funding for the Pantry’s operational costs and basic needs, much of what the Pantry has in terms of canned food and nonperishable items is from the generosity of these volunteers and UC Davis students and community members.

“We get a massive amount of support from the students and the community that come through,” Li said.

Adilla Jamaludin, a third-year environmental policy analysis and planning major and the ASUCD vice president, also wanted to make a difference on the UC Davis campus. She was inspired by a program she saw at a pizzeria where people could buy a piece of pizza for a stranger and leave a kind note along with it. As an ASUCD senator, she decided to start the Pay it Forward program at the on campus pizzeria, Ciao, located in the CoHo.

“Anybody who goes to Ciao can ask to buy a slice forward,” Jamaludin said. “They will pay for whatever pizza slice they want to get to buy forward, so like veggie or pepperoni or whatever it is and the coho will collect those receipts and give them to the pantry on a weekly basis.”

The program began in May 2016 and has continued to impact students who are food insecure today. Hundreds of students have purchased tickets helping others make ends meet, and those who visit the Pantry can use the receipts as vouchers at Ciao.

“I wanted something that was going to continue beyond my [senatorial] term,” Jamaludin said. “I’m happy that it’s still there and I’m hoping to actually expand the program to to-go items.”

UC Davis not only excels academically but also in many other areas on campus creating a unique experience for the student body.

“I think that being aware of how you affect other people and giving is super important,” Beyer said. “It’s something that I think everyone should […] strive towards making other people feel appreciated. The way I choose to do that is through gifts, and I think any way to make other people feel special is important.”

Whether they are prompted by programs on campus or just by their own good nature, UC Davis students know how to help spread kindness and pay it forward.

“I don’t know if I make a big impact on the campus scale but I definitely know that it’s infectious,” Saykali said. “It’s kind of like paying it forward and expecting that putting a smile on someone’s face will make them more likely to do something out of their way for someone else to make them smile.”


Written by: Elizabeth Marin  — features@theaggie.org


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