Painting a mural of the U.S. on her old elementary school’s playground brought back memories for Sophia DoQui.
DoQui, a first-year undeclared social sciences student, volunteered at Welby Way Elementary School, her alma mater, as part of UCLA Volunteer Day. The school was one of 49 sites UCLA students worked at on Volunteer Day, which included public parks, veteran centers and school playgrounds.
“I feel fortunate to give back to the community that had nurtured me. … I am proud to come back wearing (the UCLA) insignia,” DoQui said as she pointed to her blue Volunteer Day shirt.
Nearly 7,000 UCLA students, staff, parents and alumni participated in Volunteer Day, which, despite its name, is mandatory for all incoming students. Some students were eager to participate in the seventh annual event, but others were not pleased the event was required.
Forrest Larson, a first-year undeclared engineering student, complained Volunteer Day was a mandatory obligation for all incoming students.
“This enforcement contradicts the whole aspect of volunteering,” he said.
Daniel Wefers, a first-year mechanical engineering student, said he thinks making Volunteer Day mandatory exposes students to community involvement.
“(It’s important) students feel an obligation to participate in service,” he said.
Other students said there was very little enforcement in getting students to actually attend Volunteer Day. Whitney LaValle, a first-year neuroscience student, said some of her friends simply skipped Volunteer Day.
At Welby Way Elementary School, students renovated and repaired the basketball courts and playground. Several UCLA students also spoke with Welby Way parents and offered advice about navigating the UCLA admissions process.
Marijo Pempeña, a fourth-year neuroscience student, said task captains trained for three hours to learn how to prepare and manage the worksites.
Some students complained about the improper distribution of work. Adrian Lee, a first-year business economics student, said he thinks the work was too easy because the team captains didn’t distribute the tasks properly.
Matt Ghanmeh, a task captain and fourth-year anthropology student, said the reason for the improper distribution of labor was due in part to supplies that never arrived, preventing volunteers from finishing painting the backboards of the basketball hoops.
Rebecca Parman, a project leader at the UCLA Volunteer Center, said the center is planning to complete unfinished projects in a few weeks under its program, One Bus, One Cause, which sends volunteers to work on similar projects.
As team captains signaled for students to return to the buses around 1 p.m., several students complained about how exhausted they were. Others reflected on the work they accomplished and posted photos on Facebook using #BruinsGiveBack.