Volume 74, Number 48 | April 06 - 12 , 2005

A Salute
to Volunteers

Photos courtesy New York University Community Service Office

N.Y.U. Craft of Caring participants work on baby blankets for Children of Bellevue. Last semester, the group of about 25 participants made and donated 40 blankets to the program, which provides education, training and support to teen mothers at Bellevue Hospital.

University gives back to the community in many ways

By Amanda Kludt

New York University, a major force in Greenwich Village with its over 30,000 students, major real estate holdings and often contentious local influence is using its immense size and resources to give back to the community through its extensive community service programs. Over 4,000 students and hundreds of faculty and staff take part in the countless volunteer opportunities the university offers throughout the year.

From university-wide food and clothing drives to volunteering at local after-school programs, members of the N.Y.U. community offer their services to the neighborhood year-round. In the last eight years N.Y.U. has collected and donated more than 60 tons of clothing and more than 50 tons of food to local agencies.

Students, faculty and alumni volunteer at hospitals, homeless shelters, preschools and retirement homes through the 130 different offered programs. They hold park cleanups all over the city from Washington Sq. Park to Ellis Island. They paint schools and hold charity auctions. The school also gives out $35,000 in grant money every year to individual students and faculty who have special projects or who want to incorporate community service into course curriculums. Presently 60 N.Y.U. courses include service learning and volunteering

“We truly do take the motto seriously, ‘a private university in the public service’,” said Gloria Cahill, the director of the Community Service Office at N.Y.U. Cahill said it was hard to spotlight a specific project because the list of programs is so varied and extensive.

One project Cahill and other administrators all mentioned was the President’s C-Team, a group of over 200 students who each make a semester-long commitment to volunteer for two hours a week at one of 11 local organizations. The agencies, including the Henry Street Settlement, A Place for Kids and Visiting Neighbors, all focus on one-on-one relationships.

“Because the students make an ongoing commitment, they really get to see the fruits of their labor,” said Cahill, mentioning that many of the programs wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of the N.Y.U. students.

A perhaps more unconventional volunteer group is Craft for Caring, a group of 25 students that convenes every Wednesday night to knit blankets for Children of Bellevue, a nonprofit group within Bellevue Hospital.

“N.Y.U. students are very motivated,” said Cahill, mentioning that over 80 percent of students have part-time jobs or internships in addition to schoolwork. “A lot of students won’t permit themselves to have a hobby.” With Craft for Caring, she said, students could have fun and give back to the community.

Another volunteer opportunity is the Best Buddies program, run by Lisa Kail, assistant director of the Community Service Office. Best Buddies pairs intellectually disabled adults with high school and college students. Two students founded N.Y.U.’s chapter in 2001 and now there are 38 pairs. The students take their buddy to film screenings at the university, N.Y.U. sports games or a Best Buddy event. At the end of the month, the group will be hosting a Best Buddy gala for all of the Best Buddy programs in New York.

Kail said that students now are more likely to be involved with community service than in the past because many high schools make it compulsory. “Students now are very experienced,” she said, noting that current students have been volunteering at after-school programs for years and now want something more challenging. However, she added that each different kind of volunteering opportunity is significant.

“There’s a lot to be said for being an N.Y.U. freshman who’s playing with Play-Doh,” she said.

Many members of the student body demonstrated their experience and commitment over the past few months by contributing to tsunami-relief aid. The Stern School of Business held a university-wide poker match and the Gallatin School of Individualized Study screened the three “Lord of The Rings” movies to raise money. There were concerts, T-shirt sales and general fundraisers. The Wagner School of Social Service founded the group Asians Changing Tomorrow Now to help those countries hit by the disaster to deal with long-ranging problems.

This month, in addition to the ongoing tsunami-relief efforts and the continuing volunteer programs, two major upcoming events are the Relay for Life and the V.I.P. (Volunteers in the Park) Day. For the Relay for Life, to be held on April 16, sponsored participants will walk the perimeter of the track at one of N.Y.U.’s sports centers for 24 hours to raise money for The American Cancer Society.

On V.I.P. Day, April 22, 300 to 400 N.Y.U. community members will clean up Washington Sq. Park and paint fences and benches.

“It’s nice to give back to this local facility,” said Kail, noting that university students, faculty and staff use the park year-round. “Park cleanups in general are fun for students who have come to this urban environment from a more suburban one,” she said, admitting that Washington Sq. Park might seem miniscule to students hailing for more rural areas.

With N.Y.U.’s wide range of volunteer programs and opportunities for individual projects, it would be unusual for a student to be at a loss for something to do. From painting schools to knitting to mentoring to picking up garbage, many in the N.Y.U. community are committed to giving whatever they can back to the Downtown Manhattan area.

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