NU Gives Back calls for students to engage in day of service

Stephanie Haines

This May, students will once again have the opportunity to “engage before they rage.”

NU Gives Back will host its second annual campus-wide day of service May 19, the weekend before Dillo Day. The group hopes to encourage students to “engage” in the surrounding community before they “rage” the following weekend during Dillo Day, according to its website.

NU Gives Back can accommodate up to 650 student volunteers, President Kira Hooks said.

Hooks said online registration for NU’s day of service began April 17, and in the first few days, about 130 students signed up. Students may sign up individually or in a team,, according to the website. Registration will close May 13. Last year’s day of service garnered about 360 student volunteers and one faculty member, Hooks said.

“My goal as president is to up volunteer participation,” the Communication junior said. “I want to secure involvement and make sure people know who we are.”

Hooks said partnering with Special Olympics, an NU Gives Back site at Evanston Township High School that offers 200 volunteer positions, greatly increased the projected volunteer number this year.

Hooks said although last year NU Gives Back was funded almost entirely by the Residence Hall Association, this year the service organization received donations from the Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council to fund transportation to the sites, breakfast for the volunteers and 450 T-shirts. She also said residence halls and national funding group Indiegogo contributed donations to the group.

Hooks stressed the importance of working together and being productive as a broader NU community, focused on more than student group loyalty.

“The only big public act we have is Dillo Day where we all come together,” Hooks said. “But that is purely because we are celebrating the end of the year. There wasn’t an event that was more productive, and that’s what the founders envisioned. They wanted to make a day that you were serving on the basis that we are all NU students, and we are giving back to the community.”

SESP sophomore Rebecca Rego, co-chair of NU Gives Back’s site committee, said there will be about 30 to 40 sites. Volunteering activities will include working at events and organizations such as Special Olympics, helping children and tasks like gardening.

Rego said working with children seemed to be the most popular volunteer opportunity, according to results from a survey administered after the 2011 service day and student feedback. She said her goal this year is to increase interaction between the student volunteers and the staff that works at each service site.

“When people can see real interaction or physical change, students have a more positive experience than just being behind the scenes,” Rego said. “We kept that in mind when researching project sites. We want students to think, ‘Wow, I did that,’ at the end of the day.”

Other changes from last year include shorter volunteering time and a Sodexo-sponsored lunch that volunteers will take with them to the site as opposed to last year’s luncheon that was canceled due to rain. In addition to these changes, Rego said that the event will still include a speaker.

Communication sophomore John Zeledon said he participated in the 2011 NU Gives Back with the Catalyst team, who helped set up Evanston Township High School for their Relay for Life event. Although he cannot participate this year, he said he would like to volunteer again.

“It’s definitely important for us to give back to this community that we are all a part of,” Zeledon said. “It’s definitely good for the University to establish good will with surrounding areas.”

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