As a UCLA student, I fully acknowledge that I am afforded many opportunities others do not have.
Like the beloved fictional character Uncle Ben would say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” While I feel a sense of responsibility to use my opportunities for the betterment of others, it pales in comparison to the responsibility UCLA has to help those around it.
UCLA is located in one of the most influential cities in the world and has profound potential to positively impact countless people. Every day, students are being shaped into future leaders, professors are performing research to better the world and university staff are tirelessly working to advance the university’s mission.
But it is often easy to forget the disparities and inequities all around us. It seems like every day I hear about Westwood’s homeless population growing, nearby schools struggling to obtain proper resources and people suffering through unlivable conditions. While such news is saddening, it can also motivate students to be a force for change.
UCLA and everyone affiliated with the institution has an obligation to perform service and give back to communities who may not be as fortunate as we are. That’s why I became a Volunteer Center Fellow, and it’s why the Volunteer Center and Volunteer Day are so important.
Volunteer Day is designed to help students realize their responsibility to their community. The annual day of service for thousands of students, staff, faculty and alumni to participate in projects throughout the Los Angeles community marked my, and many others’, first time performing community service in college. Be it feeding people at a local soup kitchen, speaking to children about the importance of education or beautifying underresourced elementary schools, Volunteer Day not only signifies UCLA’s ability to give back to others but also allows the campus to experience the joy of community service.
While the impact of Volunteer Day is monumental, it would be incomplete without providing the campus more opportunities to serve. This is where the Volunteer Center comes in.
The UCLA Volunteer Center offers numerous programs that allow students, staff, faculty and alumni to get involved in community service. From “One Bus, One Cause” events, where Bruins board a bus to help at a project site, to “Operation Gratitude,” where Bruins assist in creating care packages to military service members, to any of the other 12 projects offered, the Volunteer Center is committed to creating social change through lifelong civic engagement and participation in volunteer programs.
UCLA not only has the ability and the resources to help others, but also the responsibility to do so. While the university still has some ways to go, the Volunteer Center is ensuring it is committed to helping others by helping us feel a connection to the communities we support and the volunteers we share our time with.
As we embark on the 10th Annual Volunteer Day, it is important to remember that our impacts as a university have transcended years – and that 10 years should only be a beginning to a lifetime of volunteering for students.
Santiago is a Volunteer Center Fellow and a fourth-year political science and communication student.