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Students Use Day for Service, Community Insight

September 8, 2009 – More than 500 first-year and transfer students reached out to neighboring Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia communities on Sept. 5, as part of Georgetown’s Community Service Day.

Community Service Day serves as one way for the university to introduce incoming students to the Jesuit traditions of service and social justice, said Suzanne Tarlov, associate director for the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service. She also hoped the Saturday projects would give the new residents “some insight into the social justice issues” being faced in their city.

Hoyas Spread Out for Service

Students traveled to participate in one of 19 different service projects that included gardening at Catholic Charities’ Mount Carmel House homeless shelter for women, outdoor work at Hardy Middle School in Northwest D.C., and food delivery with Food and Friends.

Community Service Day comes almost a week before the Sept. 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, which was signed into law by President Obama in April.

“For most of you, D.C. is now an extension of home and with this physical relocation comes the moral obligation to care for and learn about D.C.,” Andria Wisler, visiting professor in the Program on Justice and Peace, told student volunteers during opening remarks at registration in the O’Donovan Dining Hall. “We must partake in what our White House neighbor, President Barack Obama, has called an ‘era of responsibility.’ ”

In keeping with the president’s call to service, students also volunteered at the Mobile Soup Kitchen and at Hamilton Academy, where they were videotaped for Obama’s United We Serve service initiative.

The Lessons of Service

Volunteer Mary Katherine Newman (C’13) decided to do her part by helping the city’s homeless. She continued talks with some of D.C.’s homeless residents that had begun this summer during her participation in the university’s First-Year Orientation to Community Involvement – an intensive pre-orientation program for first-year students.

“It was really rewarding to hear their stories,” said Newman of Mabelton, Ga. “It’s not just homelessness these people are facing. There’s illness and closed shelters.”

Arianna Pineiro (SFS’13) of Stuart, Fla., also found the day of service rewarding. “It’s a really good introduction to D.C., and a really great way to see beyond Georgetown,” she said. “This forces students to confront the issues on a personal level.”

After students completed the day’s projects, they participated in reflections with a chaplain-in-residence on each site. The chaplains supported the students as they strove to learn about service opportunities on campus, as well as learn about the inherent connection between campus ministry and social justice, said Michelle Siemietkowski, director of residential ministry for the office of Campus Ministry.

“It’s a good thing to do,” said Andrew Klemperer (SFS’13) of Atlanta as he reflected on why he volunteered. “It’s a good way to help out and get to know your community.”

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