Service First, fair offer first-year students opportunity to make impact

The essays, the problem sets, the laundry … college is hard work. But Stephanie Kurtzman, director of the Community Service Office and associate director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service at Washington University in St. Louis, said volunteering can make life on campus more meaningful … and more fun.

Kurtzman shared why community service, such as Service First, is a win-win-win.

Washington University students volunteer at a higher rate than their peers at other universities. How can first-year students get involved?

Kurtzman: Service First is a great launching pad. On Saturday, Aug. 30, students will have the opportunity to help at 10 different public and charter schools. Afterward, students can learn about 56 different service groups at our annual community service fair. Students have so many options, ranging from making a weekly commitment to working directly with individuals or for a cause that matters to signing up for a one-time event, such as Dance Marathon.

What do you mean when you call community service a win-win-win?

Kurtzman: It’s an experience that helps the student learn, it helps the community, and it’s also fun and social. It’s a great way to meet people, get into St. Louis, and do something that you care about. Community service is manageable even within a demanding academic schedule. The typical weekly one-hour commitment can broaden your perspective in the most unexpected ways.

This is challenging time for the St. Louis region. How can community service be part of the solution?

Our students are part of the St. Louis community now. This is their home; these are their neighbors. And part of the responsibility of being in a community is understanding the context in which you are living and learning. You can learn in the classroom, and you can also learn through service. These experiences provide a valuable real-world way to understand the complicated questions in our country right now.