Service First celebrates 10 years of reaching out to the community

With each new school year comes a fresh start. For the past decade, Washington Uni-versity students have helped St. Louis-area school children get a new start in clean, colorful hallways and classrooms.

More than 10,000 WUSTL students have volunteered their time over the past 10 years to clean and beautify schools as part of Service First.

The annual event, which introduces new students to community service in the St. Louis area, will be held Saturday, Aug. 30. More than 1,000 newly arrived freshmen will paint, landscape and clean 12 St. Louis-area public schools to make the school year more enjoyable for students and their teachers.

“It’s hard to imagine that we’ve been doing this for 10 years already,” said Stephanie Kurtzman, director of the Community Service Office and associate director of the Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service. “It’s really been a labor of love for us, and we’re happy that we’ve been able to reach out to so many St. Louis-area students. I hope this event will serve as the beginning of a lasting commitment to service by our students during their time at Washington University.”

Service First sends approximately 90 students to each school, and all projects are developed by principals and their staffs. Projects include painting indoor and outdoor murals, painting activities and maps on the playground, creating bulletin boards, and preparing classrooms. The bulk of the work will take place from 1-4 p.m.

Upon returning to the University after a day of work, students will participate in a Community Service Fair and barbecue featuring more than 30 student-run organizations that focus on community service. The fair allows students to learn more about opportunities in which to get involved during their time at WUSTL.

Service First is co-sponsored this year by St. Louis Public Schools, The Women’s Society of Washington University, Student Union and Congress of the South 40, among many others.

Service First began in 1999 with about 600 student volunteers helping to clean and beautify scenic trails. It has grown and flourished every year and now typically involves more than 1,000 students, staff and faculty volunteers.

Schools to be visited this year from the St. Louis Public School District include Ames, Ford, Henry, Mullanphy and Laclede elementary schools; Carr Lane, Langston and Stevens middle schools; and Carnahan and Gateway High Schools. Students also will visit Central Elementary in the Wellston School District and Barbara C. Jordan Elementary in the University City School District.

For more information, call Kurtzman at 935-5599 or visit