Early on Saturday, Aug. 27, nearly 200 University of Georgia first-year and transfer students gathered at the Tate Student Center to participate in the inaugural “New Student Day of Service”– a spinoff of UGA’s largest annual community volunteer event, “Dawg Day of Service.” This year’s twist offered incoming first-year and transfer students a unique opportunity to serve the Athens-Clarke County community together. While mingling over breakfast, an excited energy pervaded the group as many were eager to both make new friends and have a positive impact.
After opening words from community partner Bryce Seuntjens with Books for Keeps, students split up to deploy across different service areas all over Athens. Some of these service sites included Books for Keeps, Keep Athens Clark County Beautiful outdoor projects at JJ Harris Elementary and Barrow Elementary, The Backpack Project, Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela, Athens Area Humane Society, Athens-Clarke County Animal Services, and many others.
For Kilie Wilson, a transfer animal science major, participating in the New Student Day of Service was a great way to kickstart her life at UGA and engage in meaningful service work. “Volunteering at the Athens Humane Society allowed me to get off campus and learn what the community of Athens is about. Being here today I was able to interact with animals, which being a pre-vet student was really great because I have a passion for animals. I loved being able to meet new people, make new connections, and help meet the needs of animals in the shelter.”
The New Student Day of Service was an amazing opportunity for students to start building relationships with their neighbors in Athens, said Seeta Patel, one of Serve UGA’s co-executive directors. “My favorite part of the day was seeing all the students return back from their sites. So many students told me about the impact that they made in the community with a smile that went from ear to ear.”
Starting in fall 2013, “Dawg Day of Service” is now a staple annual event of Serve UGA, a group that promotes a culture of service and community engagement at UGA and is advised by the Division of Students Affairs’ Engagement, Leadership, and Service.
“New Student Day of Service was designed as one of the first events of the year to offer new students their first taste of service in Athens,” said Nikita Shah, co-executive director of Serve UGA. “Getting students started early on is a great way to connect more students to community organizations in a way that promotes sustainable and meaningful service, which is what Serve UGA is all about.”
“We hope Dawg Day of Service on October 1st can keep building on that,” she said.
For those interested in participating in Dawg Day of Service, a service event for all students, on Oct. 1 can visit Engagement, Leadership, and Service’s website for more information. Students are also encouraged to follow Serve UGA (@serveuga) on social media for other ongoing service opportunities and updates.