In an effort to raise awareness and participation in community service projects around USC, a new committee plans to bridge the gap between the residential community and the university’s Volunteer Center.
The SCivic Engagement Committee was founded by Pablo Ortiz de Urbina, the resident adviser of the service-based floor in Troy East, which gives students a chance to serve the community while also building a connection to the university.
The committee made its first effort at raising awareness by encouraging students to volunteer at Saturday’s Friends & Neighbors Day, where participants helped provide a face-lift for Casa de Rosa-Sunshine Mission, a local women’s shelter.
“My biggest task was to have the floor take [off] on its own, and I felt like it needed to be connected with USC,” said Urbina, a senior majoring in French horn performance. “There is never enough that you can do for others, you can always do more to help people.”
The committee will act as a liaison between Residential Education and the Volunteer Center, connecting thousands of students living in USC housing to the projects conducted through the center. Although the two organizations have worked together before, the new committee establishes a direct line of communication to campus residents.
“What’s nice about the committee is that it is connecting URC, the building governments … It makes sure that the partnership stays active and fluid,” said Carol Schmitz, director of Residential Communities. “It brings people across several different networks together.”
The SCivic Engagement Committee is made up of four different RAs assigned by Residential Education, with Volunteer Center Director Melissa Gaeke acting as its adviser. The committee plans to meet regularly to plan out ways of communicating volunteer opportunities to students, with emails and fliers.
“We act as a good friend who is there to remind students to give back,” Urbina said.
Although the committee can only directly contact students who live in university housing, Urbina said the system would be a good way of establishing awareness of volunteer opportunities for those who eventually move to private housing.
The committee attracted about 17 volunteers for its first event on Saturday, when it helped with the cleaning and gardening at Casa de Rosa. Though Urbina said he was happy with the turnout, he hopes the efforts of the committee will be even more persuasive over time to bring in more students.
The marketing efforts of the committee helped increase the number of volunteers for Friends & Neighbors Day last November to about 250 this year — up from 150 students, alumni and community members from the year before, according to Friends & Neighbors Day Coordinator Kim Ueyama.
Urbina is looking at ways to increase the growth of the committee and get more students to volunteer, maintaining that if people actually go out to the sites and see the impact of their efforts, more people will be active in volunteering.
“Hopefully we can design a strategy to raise people’s awareness,” Urbina said.
One suggestion he made was to design a series of “quick programs” that involve 10 students going to volunteer events every month at a site that is within walking distance.
A number of students appreciated the new effort from the committee, saying they would be interested in a system that alerted them to volunteer opportunities around campus.
“I’m always looking for opportunities to volunteer, but there aren’t any clubs that catch my eye,” said Ivana Dukanovic, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. “It would make a difference if they found a creative outlet.”
Bo Chan, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, volunteered at Casa de Rosa after she saw fliers around her dorm and received emails from the committee.
“It was nice to help the community you are in,” Chan said. “I’m trying to get a lot more involved and this way is easy because they tell us what’s available rather than me coming up with my own thing.”