On March 25, more than 100 University of Georgia students participated in Dawg Day of Service, a periodic event that allows students to serve the Athens-Clarke County community.
Coordinated by Service Ambassadors, a group of student leaders representing Serve UGA in UGA Student Affairs’ department of Engagement, Leadership and Service, the students spread out across nine sites throughout the morning, assisting with various tasks from cleaning spaces for people experiencing homelessness, to building desks and chairs, to sorting recyclables.
Several of the community partners have long-standing relationships with UGA students serving with them, including Oasis Católico, Hope Haven, Project Safe and Books for Keeps, among others. This year, the students added a few new sites, including Sandy Creek Nature Center.
Janelle Booker, a third-year student from Norcross, Georgia, majoring in management information systems, is Serve UGA’s executive director, leading the behind-the-scenes work of Dawg Day of Service.
“As students coming into a new community, we have the obligation as new people … to help the community — be a leader by action, not just by words,” said Booker. “People can put their passions in and use their skills in service, outreach, fundraising. It’s important to remember that we’re members of this community, as well.”
Bianca Jones, a first-year student from Augusta, Georgia studying environmental economics and management, typically serves with the UGArden and led the group serving at Oasis Católico for Dawg Day of Service. She initially volunteered with New Student Day of Service last fall as her introduction to Serve UGA and Service Ambassadors.
“As a first-year and new to campus … I wanted to surround myself in a community of service. I wanted to connect with others who prioritized volunteering and learning about [Athens],” said Jones. “I’ve learned so much about different parts of the community, connecting with different cultures, and I enjoy cleaning and doing tasks like that. Service can also be fun things that you enjoy!”
Riley Mitacek is a third-year from Johns Creek, Georgia, studying criminal justice whose regular service site is Project Safe. She led a group serving with Athens Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) and said that Serve UGA provided a great way to make friends.
“Whether meeting a lot of new people at larger sites or managing a few volunteers at smaller sites, I’ve been able to make friends more easily. … It’s good to step out of your comfort zone and grow the people in your own circles and to connect with others outside of your circle.”
For example, Mitacek shared that a patron of a local service site approached her to ask how a particular piece of clothing looked for an event she was planning to attend that weekend.
“It was so nice for her to see me as a friendly face and engage with me that way,” she said.
Jones said that though students are only here for a few years, they should understand they are part of this community and have an impact here.
“Everyone is like, ‘oh, college, fun,’ but these service experiences are so important for who you are as a person and your own growth, and even how you can market yourself for jobs or whatever down the road,” said Jones. “It’s an important part of this time in our lives as college students to explore, and grow, and learn — and service provides a great way to do that.”
Booker enjoys when different people from different backgrounds come together for a common cause. She believes that participating in these opportunities now can create good habits for the future.
“Serving in college sets you up for service for life — direct service in corporate life — helping our communities with their needs, not just through donations,” she said.
In the end, though, Booker explained that serving others is enough reason to engage, and that students should take advantage of the numerous opportunities to do so at UGA.
“There are probably people in your life who showed up for you, and you can’t get through life all by yourself,” she said. “Helping other people get to where they need to be is fulfilling. Whether they ‘give you props’ or not, you know you did something good. It’s about helping others, using our resources to help, having fun through service and finding different avenues we’re passionate about.”