Annual Service First challenges freshmen to get involved​

Sept. 4 community service event expects 1,200 freshmen; seniors return with Service 4.0

Service First, the university’s largest annual community service project, inspires incoming students to get involved and to give back.

Seniors pull weeds during last year’s Service First 4.0 at Gateway Greening at the Block Unit 1035 Community Garden, 5834 Westminster Place.

While more than 1,200 freshmen are cleaning up local schools this Labor Day weekend for the upcoming year, a group of seniors will relive memories of their freshman year and celebrate the spirit of community service. The seniors will participate in a Service First reunion project, Service 4.0.

“Service First was probably one of the best ways to begin my freshman year,” says Alex Kiles, a senior in Arts & Sciences. “Not only were we helping out in the community, but it was the first major opportunity we had to bond with others on our freshman floor. We forged new friendships and improved the lives of the students at local schools at the same time.

“It’s a priceless experience,” he says.

As a result, the Senior Class Council decided to recreate that experience and let Service First 4.0, held in conjunction with Service First, jumpstart the seniors’ last year at WUSTL and get everyone excited again about service.

A group of freshmen paint steps at Dewey School during last year’s Service First.

The 12th annual Service First event will be held Saturday, Sept. 4, at 12 St. Louis-area schools. Approximately 100 students will head to each school to paint indoor and outdoor murals, activities and maps on the playground; create bulletin boards; and assist teachers in preparing classrooms.

Volunteers will work at the schools from approximately 12:30 p.m.-5 p.m. They then will return to the university for a community service fair from 4-7 p.m. on the South 40 swamp, where they will learn more about the myriad community service opportunities in which they can get involved during their time at WUSTL.

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

Schools to be visited this year are Big Picture Academy Northwest, Buder, Nottingham CAJT High School, Cote Brilliante, Dewey, Farragut, Gateway IT, KIPP: Inspire Academy, Lyon at Blow, Woodward and Sigel in the Saint Louis Public School District; and Brittany Woods in the School District of University City.

Service First is funded by the university and numerous generous donors, including the Washington University Women’s Society and local and national businesses.

For more information, contact Stephanie Kurtzman, director of the Community Service Office and associate director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service, at (314) 935-5599 or