WEB EXCLUSIVE: Students Volunteer for Weekend of Service

GW students cleaned up the Shaw neighborhood, dedicated a mural at a library and built a community garden this weekend to commemorate the 13th annual National Youth Service Day.

Neighbor’s Project Corps members ran five citywide events to benefit young and old residents throughout the weekend.

“Nationally service is falling, but at GW service is still going up,” Neighbors Project coordinator Stacey Blumenthal said.

Junior Natalia Walter, a Bright Beginnings corps member, coordinated a Friday afternoon event at the Perry School at 128 M St., which included book sorting for a new children’s library, preparing toy donations for shipping and building a playground. About 20 students participated in the event – the largest turnout of the weekend.

Bright Beginnings educates and offers emotional support to homeless children six months to five years old.

Vishnu Murthy, a freshman volunteer at Bright Beginnings, said he enjoyed the event and looked forward to becoming more involved in the community.

Six GW students participated in the cleanup at a park on 10th and French streets Saturday.

“We filled up an entire dumpster thanks to the efforts made by the GW students,” said Kevin Parker, president of the French Street Neighborhood Association.

Students said helping the Shaw community was a rewarding experience.

“It was really fun to come out here with my friends and clean up the neighborhood,” said junior Marianna Kessimian, a Neighbors Project Corps member.

The park volunteers then walked to the Watha T. Daniel Library at 7th and R streets, where they dedicated a mural to aid a neighborhood anti-graffiti effort.

Shaw Ecovillage Project Coordinator and Howard University senior Zarinah El-Amin said she was thrilled by the energy of the volunteers who helped clean up graffiti in the area.

The Shaw Ecovillage Project serves as a catalyst for positive change in the neighborhood, said Pascale Michel, youth coordinator of the project.

Students in another service program, Emmaus Services for the Aging, visited senior citizens living in low-income housing Saturday. Sophomore corps member Mikey Akin coordinates the program.

“Literally in the shadow of the Capitol building we have people living in poverty and Emmaus tries to bring that to people’s attention,” Akin said.

Clara Toler, who has lived in D.C. since 1949, said the program helps her keep her life in order.

Sophomore Madeline Buck led a group of volunteers who planted a garden in an empty lot at 1525 7th Street NW Sunday. The garden will provide neighbors with a low-cost source of vegetables.

National Youth Service Day was founded in 1988 to recognize young people for their service contributions and educate the public about youth volunteer opportunities, said Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of Youth Service America.

About three million participants nationwide participate in the service day, organizers said.

GW’s Office of Community Service focused on education, health, senior services and community development with the weekend’s events, said Amiko Matsumoto, director of the Office of Community Service.

“We hope National Youth Service Day encourages people to see the difference they can make in the community,” Matsumoto said.

Participants said the weekend’s events highlight the service students do all year long.

“Just like we talk about how Thanksgiving isn’t the only day you’re thankful, it’s a day we all come together and think about the good things happening all year round,” said Karen Larson, director of National Youth Service Day. “That is the way we like to think about National Youth Service Day.”

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