About half the freshman class volunteered for GW’s first annual Freshman Day of Service, working in the community at 13 different sites across the District on Friday.
The event’s theme focused on “serving those who serve us,” organizers said, and was highlighted by first lady Michelle Obama’s promise to be this year’s commencement speaker if the GW community completes 100,000 hours of community service.
“The idea of this day grew from the passion of students to be in and of the District of Columbia, and service is of course a core value of a George Washington University education,” University President Steven Knapp said at the event’s opening ceremony.
About 1,200 freshmen, 130 upperclassmen student leaders and 75 GW staff members volunteered their time for the event, said Shannon Donahue, freshman service coordinator for the Office of Community Service. Each student who participated in the day of service did approximately two-and-a-half hours of service.
Participating students traveled to many different service opportunities, like area parks that needed cleaning.
Freshman Elizabeth Cox, who went to the Anacostia Watershed, said everyone helped with cleaning up trash, vegetation and invasive species.
“I don’t know how somebody wouldn’t want to serve those who served us. I think it’s a really great idea to turn Sept. 11 into a day of service,” she said.
Freshman Aly Azhar went to Marvin Gaye Park and pulled weeds and collected trash. Azhar noted that several bystanders and drivers stopped frequently to express their gratitude and to thank the students for cleaning the park.
“I’ve gone litter-picking before and that’s never happened,” he said.
Another freshman at the park, Robert Zane, said the group collected at least 20 trash bags after an hour-and-a-half of work, finding debris including clothing and used needles.
“It was a great experience to help out in the community,” Zane said.
Other students traveled to the United Service Organization’s Fort Belvoir facility. Students made 7,500 care packages for U.S. soldiers consisting of toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand sanitizer, razors, combs, shampoo, deodorant, and shaving cream.
“Because of today, we will be able to send out 1.8 million bags,” said Ron Wise, director of Operation USO Care Package.
GW students also volunteered for We Are Family, an organization founded after the 9/11 attacks that helps the elderly living in low-income housing. Freshman Joshua Gammon said he socialized with the senior citizens during his service.
“They had a lot of fun, and I felt really good,” he said.
Donahue closed the day by calling on students to continue volunteering.
“We had a phenomenal day today and I hope you continue the service you did,” she said.