Fewer students will attend UCLA Volunteer Day this year because the event has reduced the number of locations volunteers will be visiting.
Students will visit 31 locations instead of 49, like last year, for this year’s Volunteer Day, an annual volunteering event for incoming students, said Ashley Love-Smith, the interim director of the UCLA Volunteer Center.
In previous years, Volunteer Day has required 5,500 student volunteers to cover all locations, but this year the minimum requirement is 2,900, Love-Smith said. She added more than 3,200 students have signed up so far.
The Volunteer Center is reducing locations this year because Love-Smith, as its interim director, is handling responsibilities for Volunteer Day that both the director and assistant director of the Volunteer Center usually manage.
“This year we scaled Volunteer Day back … because of the transition in our office,” Love-Smith said. “We’re trying to make sure that we’re able to send out enough students to go to our locations and make sure the projects get covered.”
Many students commonly regard Volunteer Day as a mandatory event for new students, but Love-Smith said it is not actually mandatory.
“In the past years we had almost 50 sites, so we needed a large group of participants,” she said. “We would have (residential assistants) recruit for us, but if the student can’t or doesn’t want to go there’s no consequence – it’s just highly encouraged.”
The Volunteer Center made several other changes to Volunteer Day to increase the event’s efficiency, such as creating a Google Doc registration sheet for students to sign up for the event and adding a second loading zone for students to board buses, Love-Smith said.
The loading zones will be in front of Hedrick Hall and Carnesale Commons, and UCLA Residential Life will tell students which loading zone to go to according to where they live, she added.
“It may also help students with accessibility issues because … this year they can go to (Carnesale Commons), which is flat, and we can make sure to get (Americans with Disabilites Act)-compliant buses,” Love-Smith added.
Love-Smith said although the buses are reserved for first-year and transfer students, other students may be able to find space on a first-come, first-serve basis, and returning students were invited to register in advance as task captains.
The Transfer Student Center usually provides Volunteer Day buses specifically for transfer and commuter students, but this year, those students will be volunteering at the Veterans’ Garden on Wilshire Boulevard, said Heather Adams, the transfer student program director.
“There will probably be less attendance, but we’ve been really marketing this day for the whole summer, so we’re hoping a lot of volunteers will show up,” Adams said.
Several students who participated in Volunteer Day in previous years said they think it provides an important service opportunity for UCLA students.
Bri Barr, a second-year biology student, said she enjoyed weeding gardens at a local school during Volunteer Day her first year, and added she would have volunteered even if attendance had not been as strongly encouraged.
“I think (Volunteer Day) should be mandatory, especially for the first-years,” Barr said. “Students coming to UCLA may not have volunteered a lot, and now they might not volunteer at all … but it’s good for them to get an experience of it.”
Paul Llamas, a fourth-year philosophy student who came to UCLA as a transfer student, said while he did not attend Volunteer Day because he was told it was not mandatory, he thinks the event helps students engage with different communities in Los Angeles.
“I probably would have gone if it had been mandatory,” Llamas said. “Especially as a freshman coming in, you should have a little bit of a push toward community and civic engagement.”
Kristi Trinh, a third-year psychobiology major, said she painted murals on the side of a local elementary school during her first Volunteer Day and signed up as a supervisor for the event as a second-year student. However, she added she thinks many students are generally unenthusiastic about Volunteer Day.
“A lot of people didn’t want to wake up that early,” Trinh said. “People just hid in their rooms even though the (residential assistants) knocked.”
Love-Smith she said she thinks Volunteer Day will continue to evolve.
“Next year will be something different as well, because we will be commemorating 10 years of keeping this initiative alive,” she said.