GW celebrates completing service challenge

It’s been seven months since first lady Michelle Obama issued her lofty goal to the GW community: complete 100,000 hours of community service, and secure her as Commencement speaker in May.

On Monday, the University announced that after 205 days and with the help of more than 3,800 GW community members, the goal had been reached, securing Obama as the third first lady of the U.S. to address GW graduates in University history.

At the White House Easter Egg Roll Monday, Obama told The Hatchet she had been informed that the GW community completed her challenge – totalling 106,945 hours – adding that she was pleased her challenge had been surpassed by nearly 7,000 hours so far.

“That’s great – great job,” Obama said. “I’m looking forward to graduation.”

Hours for the service challenge were completed in the D.C. region – in local charities like Miriam’s Kitchen – and across the globe during trips like Alternative Winter Breaks. More than 170 students dedicated their spring breaks to service, traveling to places like New Orleans and Greensburg, Kan. to rebuild homes and schools for those in need. Thousands of others volunteered during the Freshman Day of Service in September, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in January.

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Members of the Board of Trustees each pledged 60 hours of service, logging more than 1,800 hours for the challenge.

The University celebrated the challenge’s completion at an event Monday afternoon in Kogan Plaza. Hundreds of students and many University administrators gathered to eat ice cream and sign a banner commemorating the achievement.

“None of us had any doubt that we would reach this milestone and go beyond it,” University President Steven Knapp said at the event. “We’re going to be well past that 100,000 mark and I look forward to greeting Michelle Obama.”

Freshman Jasmin Cook said she participated in the Freshman Day of Service, the Martin Luther King Day of Service, and traveled to Atlanta on Alternative Winter Break. Cook said she was happy she could do her part to add hours to the Obama service challenge, despite the fact that Obama will not be her Commencement speaker.

“I feel like the senior class is really fortunate in the sense that they had the whole University’s support to get Mrs. Obama as the Commencement speaker,” Cook said, adding that she is a D.C. resident and will likely try and make it to the National Mall to see Obama speak in May. “You work hard for four years, you deserve a good speaker.”

Ashley Lawson, development and volunteer manager at Miriam’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen located on the corner of 24th and G streets, said her organization has seen an uptick in the number of GW students hoping to volunteer. Lawson added that because of the Obama service challenge, Miriam’s Kitchen started an ongoing relationship with GW, and once a week students head over to the kitchen to cook meals.

“It was nice to see the partnership get started because of the motivation from the service challenge,” Lawson said.

Junior Travis Holler said he is pleasantly surprised that GW was able to meet the challenge with a month to spare.

“Michelle Obama is a huge speaker who will raise the profile of the University on a national level,” Holler said.

Freshman Amanda Andreski said she contributed to the hours by working at a retirement home and participating in the Freshman Day of Service.

“I signed up to work Commencement so I could hear her speak,” Andreski said.

Knapp added that the challenge was a way for the GW community to showcase their dedication to service.

“We attract a lot of students who come to this University because they want to make a difference,” Knapp said. “Through Alterative Spring Breaks we reached out beyond Washington. We have a particular kind of student body here that really does engage people.”

Sarah Scire contributed to this report.

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