Campus Y lights 100 candles

Student volunteer organization celebrates centennial anniversary

The largest student-volunteer organization at Washington University in St. Louis celebrates its 100th anniversary this year with a nod to history and an eye toward the future.

The Campus YMCA offers 26 programs led and staffed by nearly 900 students. The students contributed more than 46,000 hours of service last year to nearly 12,500 people, with an estimated financial impact of $962,769, the organization calculates.

Programs range from mentoring underserved children through Big Brothers Big Sisters, helping first-year students become acclimated, companion programs for elders and much more.

“For 100 years, the Campus Y has supported the needs of the Washington University community,” says Tiffany Barke, executive director of the Campus Y. “Though those needs have changed over the years, we continue to know each student by name and story and serve as their family away from home.”

In the beginning, Campus Y was one of the few places male and female students could join together to answer the university’s needs and work on extracurricular projects. Some of the early programs were an International Bazaar that evolved from an exhibition to sales of global handicrafts, a men’s dormitory supper club with local speakers and discussion, Sunday Vespers service at Graham Chapel and assembly addresses from a variety of leaders who talked about issues of the day.

To celebrate the anniversary, the group is holding several events. It kicks off with a combined alumni annual dinner and anniversary celebration at 6 p.m. Friday, April 8, in Holmes Lounge. Alumni and former Campus Y program leaders Rhonda Broussard, founder and president of the St. Louis Language Immersion School, and Hugh Fleischer, an attorney from Alaska, will be the keynote speakers at the dinner.

Campus Y will hold two open houses for alumni: one for the young alumni reunion at 4 p.m. Friday, April 15; and the other 11 a.m. Friday May 20, both at the Campus Y office in the basement of Umrath Hall.

“We’re very excited,” Kathy Chen, program director, says.

The impact of volunteering and leading programs at the Campus Y have a lasting impact on the students and those they serve, she says. As a student, Chen volunteered as a mentor and tutor in the Greg Delos Y-Tutor program at Wydown Middle School in Clayton. She then became the chair for the mentoring program before she graduated in 2005.

“I really enjoyed doing what I did, working with my peers and seeing them make an impact on the students we worked with,” she says. “It’s important for middle school students to have a role model.”

Campus Y is dedicated to developing those sorts of role models and leaders, Barke says.

“Through the Campus Y programs, students have the opportunity to model the way for others, inspire a shared vision, develop the courage to challenge the process, enable volunteers to act in their community and encourage the heart of volunteers,” Barke says. “A student once told me, ‘the Campus Y is my home away from home. It is a place where I can try something new and, should I fail, my Y friends and family will continue to support me.’

“Our mission is to develop ethical leaders of exemplary character and the avenue in which they grow is service to our St. Louis community,” she says.