Orientation Outreach good sign for service days

Students at the University of Miami are volunteering in greater numbers than ever before.

After seeing an increase in the number of volunteers at this year’s Orientation Outreach, UM officials expect to welcome an even greater number of students at Gandhi Day on Oct. 2, when volunteers will fan out to different sites throughout Miami-Dade County.

“I would like to think that the increase in participation of one of our less popular events will lead to even greater success in the other events that the SLC facilitates, but we won’t know until we get there,” said Franklin McCune, assistant director of the Butler Center for Service and Leadership for the past three years.

The notable increase in participants at this year’s Orientation Outreach, the University’s smallest day of service, is providing positive buzz for Gandhi Day – the campus’ largest day for activism. Last year’s Gandhi Day mobilized more than 1,200 students in the Miami-Dade community and even more are expected to turnout this year.

Somewhere between 250 and 350 students participated in this year’s Orientation Outreach on August 28th, at ten different volunteer sites. Last year only 200 students participated in the service day and there were only seven volunteer sites.

“Orientation Outreach is usually the dinosaur of service days,” says McCune, reflecting on the turnout of the service day this year compared to the others that the SLC facilitates.

Orientation Outreach is the first of three the annual service days facilitated by the SLC in the fall semester. Orientation Outreach is geared to get the incoming class involved in the surrounding community.

McCune says this year’s freshman class appears to be more excited about giving back and getting involved than previous classes. Generally service day participants come in groups, to which an entire site is devoted to. This year’s Orientation Outreach was no different, as Resident Assistant’s from freshmen Residential Colleges, Hecht and Stanford, coordinated the participation of their residents in the event.

Students were to arrive at the UC lower lounge by 9:00 am and were treated to a light breakfast of bagels and orange juice while they met with their site leaders and were given an overview of the site they would be assigned. Despite the early morning arrival time, the mood was upbeat and energetic as many of the participants were excited to venture out and help in the surrounding areas.

“I’m just excited to go out and make a difference in a new community,” said Eric Barbarite, a freshman living in Hecht Residential College.

The sites ranged from cleaning up and uprooting invasive species of plants in Barnacle Park to helping out at a back-to-school carnival at Kristi House.

“I think it was a great experience for everyone and it is always amazing to see the pure and giving hearts of other, especially your peers,” said Natalie Fontela, a volunteer at the SLC.

Julian Glover may be contacted at jglover@themiamihurricane.com.