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CSC groups committed to service

By Joanne Hou

Sept. 26, 2007 10:08 p.m.

One of Erin Cavanaugh’s students at her Project Literary volunteer sites brings her his report card every week to show the progress he and Erin have made in their weekly tutoring sessions.

Cavanaugh, a third-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student and administrative director for UCLA’s Project Literacy, is one of many students whose community service work has positively impacted the lives of people throughout the Los Angeles area.

UCLA students have many different options for community service, and over 2,000 students regularly participate in community service activities, according to Stephanie Chang, the Undergraduate Students Association Council Community Service commissioner.

There are 22 community service groups within the Community Service Commission, or CSC, according to its Web site.

Organizations within the CSC offer students a wide range of opportunities to improve the lives of people around Los Angeles.

There are also numerous service opportunities in groups outside of the CSC, such as the service-centered fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, Circle K, Bruin Belles Service Association, Ujima Village and Unicamp.

Community service is an important part of UCLA and is one of its core missions, Chang said.

Some programs are aimed toward social and academic mentoring of underprivileged students and adults with disabilities.

Other projects focus on working with people, mostly children and teens, from a specific location such as a school or housing community.

Some groups focus on a specific ethnic group.

For example, the group Pilipinos for Community Health does its volunteer work in Pilipino communities.

Many of these projects have weekly service opportunities with transportation provided by the individual organization.

One program, the Hunger Project, hosts weekly events at a homeless shelter, the Salvation Army and a downtown health clinic. There, UCLA volunteers cook for the residents, chat with them, and help with paperwork.

However, the emphasis is on interacting with the people at these sites.

“(Volunteers) learn so much interacting with the community … (the volunteer work) may seem mundane but still makes a difference,” said Renee Choi, co-executive director of the Hunger Project.

The Hunger Project does not set minimum time requirements for volunteering, and there are volunteers coming in and out throughout the year.

Unlike the Hunger Project, other community service organizations, such as Best Buddies, require regular commitment from its members.

The UCLA chapter of the service organization Best Buddies is a program in which UCLA volunteers make friends with adults with intellectual disabilities through weekly interactions and special events.

Every week, volunteers called college buddies are required to have some communication with their buddies. Throughout the year, the volunteers also take their buddies to one-on-one outings with transportation provided by the organization.

Throughout the year, the buddies also interact with their mentees in a series of outings such as going to Knott’s Berry Farm, hosting a Valentine’s Day dinner and craft night, and attending Dance Marathon, said Marissa Martin, executive director of Best Buddies.

While the above-mentioned projects do not require intense training, there are other community service opportunities that require special training.

UCLA’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance trains volunteers each year to help low-income people on and off campus file their tax returns.

The volunteers spend parts of the fall and winter quarter attending mandatory lectures about taxes and must all pass an exam given by the Internal Revenue Service.

The wide range of community service events at UCLA enables students with a variety of interests and causes to participate in improving the lives of people in communities in Los Angeles and beyond.

“It makes people more human to be a part of the community,” Chang said.

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