Volunteering at GW and nationwide up

More students are volunteering at GW and nationwide, according to a recent national study and the Office of Community Services.

The Corporation for National and Community Service report, which analyzed data from the U.S. Census, found a 20 percent increase in the rate of volunteer work among Americans 16 to 24 from 2002 to 2005.

The study, titled, “College Students Helping America,” theorized that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks influenced the increase in college-aged volunteers. It said because college students were in high school when the attacks occurred, it might have made them more aware of the need for community involvement.

Timothy Kane, assistant director of the Office of Community Service, agreed that Sept. 11 was a factor in the increase at GW, although he declined to cite numbers for this year.

“Because the school year is just starting it’s not appropriate to give . numbers now,” Kane said.

In October the University was one of about 350 colleges named to the President’s High Education Community Service Honor Roll. The award is intended to, “increase public awareness of the contributions that college students are making within their local communities and across the country through volunteer service,” according to its Web site. Georgetown was singled out, along with nine other schools for particularly notable contributions to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

About one-fourth of work-study students are involved in volunteering, most of whom participate in D.C. Reads, Kane said.

D.C. Reads is a tutoring program for low-income District students between first and third grades. About 100 GW students participate each year in the program, which is coordinated through umbrella organizations such as For the Love of Children and CentroNia, nonprofits working to enrich childrens’ lives through after-school programs.

“Tutors build strong relationships with the children they support, get to know the diverse neighborhoods and educational system in D.C., and enhance their academic experience at GW,” Kane said.

Junior Don Cuizon, who works with D.C. Reads through a different organization, said he doesn’t just volunteer to help.

“I decided to use it as kind of a respite from everything GW and got into the real D.C. and interacted with youth who basically need a guiding hand,” he said.

Cuizon, who has volunteered for D.C. Reads for two years, participates in the reading program through CentroNia, a nonprofit providing culturally diverse early development and family programming. He said his involvement with GW’s Community Building Community program during his freshman year is what introduced him to CentroNia.

Cuizon added that Sept. 11 was a driving factor behind volunteering today.

“That day served for a lot of people as that sort of kick-in-the-butt inspiration to get up and do something for their community.”

2005 graduate Lana Petrowski, who is head of FLOC’s Neighborhood Volunteering Program, said she has seen a decrease in the number of student-volunteers. The program coordinates D.C. Reads at Garrison Elementary School and Ross Elementary School in Northwest D.C. Petrowski, who initially volunteered for FLOC through GW’s work-study program, said the nature of FLOC is unique and probably isn’t representative of GW’s overall level of community service.

“We require a strong student commitment,” she said. “It’s not reflective of the general trend of volunteerism.”

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