Volume 75, Number 48 | April 19 - 25 2006

A Salute To Volunteers

A special Villager supplement

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Robert Butler, New York University’s director of Student Activities, and Gloria Cahill, N.Y.U.’s Community Services director.

N.Y.U. volunteer program broadens reach to help Gulf

By Albert Amateau

New York University’s students, faculty and administrators have a long and deep tradition of volunteer community service — and their community last year extended from the Village and the Lower East Side to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.

In September, the university authorized full-time employees up to three weeks of paid leave to volunteer for service on the Gulf Coast. And through the Alternative Breaks Program of the Office of Student Activities, 56 New York University students spent their 2006 winter break in New Orleans as volunteers to serve victims of the hurricanes.

The Alternative Breaks Program involved four groups of students from six N.Y.U. schools who built housing and served in hospitals and schools in the devastated Ninth Ward of New Orleans and other hard-hit Gulf communities.

Closer to home, the university’s Office of Community Service, helps find opportunities for local services and fundraising campaigns for the more than 4,000 students per year who are deeply committed to community service.

“It’s one of the things about N.Y.U. students that I’m most proud of,” said Gloria Cahill, the university’s Communities Services director since 1997. N.Y.U. recently conducted a survey of entering students and found community service was high on the list of what they wanted to do, Cahill said.

“We have 23 community service student clubs registered with the Office of Student Activities this year,” said Robert Butler, director of Student Activities since 1996. “They involve students from all the schools in activities ranging from fundraising to one-on-one tutoring,” Butler said.

The university chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, one of the clubs that raises funds for national organizations, conducted a day long “Relay for Life” earlier this month at the Coles Sports Center. More than 1,000 students participated in a “walkabout” in the gym and the event brought the club’s annual contribution to the fight against cancer to more than $167,000.

Other clubs perform grassroots service in the Village and the Lower East Side.

“We have a network of 12 agencies — we started with University Settlement and the Grand St. Settlement — that serve the Village and the Lower East Side,” Cahill said.

A key service program is the President’s C-Team, founded in 1989 by L. Jay Oliva, former president of N.Y.U. Students who volunteer for the C-Team commit themselves to working at least one eight-hour shift a week with the university’s network agencies.

About 200 students per semester sign onto the team and take a training course to learn the procedures and requirements of the agencies they want to work with. Their work ranges from tutoring middle school students, mentoring older students, visiting homebound elderly people, delivering meals, knitting baby blankets and painting public schools.

“Our Scholars Program engages honor students to devote up to 30 hours of real hands-on community service each academic year,” Cahill said.

New York University has the largest campus-based program of the national America Reads organization.

“We have over 1,000 students tutoring reading in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and 300 of them are working in 28 schools on the Lower East Side,” Cahill said. “The tutors work in grades 1 to 9 and spend nearly 10 hours a week on average,” she added.

Community service at N.Y.U. reaches a highpoint Mon. April 24 through Sat. April 29 with the Universitywide Week of Service.

“Volunteering is so much a part of the air we breathe here that we often overlook how important it is to the university and the communities that we are part of,” Cahill said.

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