La Sierra freshmen kickoff college by serving others
Sept. 21, 2012
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) It was hard work under a hot sun Sept. 20, but cleaning graffiti from light poles, store windows and other objects proved a positive experience for La Sierra University freshman Michael Martinez.
“It’s almost as good as money when somebody thanks you. It feels pretty good,” said the pre-med major after helping fellow freshmen clean graffiti from a grateful Riverside shop owner’s windows.
Martinez, a graduate of Arlington High School, joined nearly 500 other La Sierra freshmen in a day of activities and community service projects intended to provide networking opportunities for new students and introduce them to La Sierra’s campus and its values prior to the start of classes on Sept. 24.
Called IGNITE, the event is coordinated by La Sierra’s Division of Student Life. Freshmen move into dorm rooms, register, eat meals together, participate in games and mixers and shake hands with La Sierra faculty and administrators during the traditional Hello Walk. The university also celebrated its incoming freshman class this year with a few choice giveaways including a $1,000 scholarship, an iPad, a laptop computer, iTunes and Best Buy gift cards.
The new students are divided into so-called family groups, each led by an upper classman who answers questions and gives advice to their new, lesser-experienced school mates. This year’s IGNITE program included, for the second consecutive year, the iServe project in which family groups are assigned community service projects. Students this year provided volunteer assistance at more than 20 agencies and organizations around Riverside. They used Riverside Transit Agency buses to reach their destinations.
Martinez’s group and others removed graffiti and cleared trash along Hole Avenue and Pierce Street. Others packaged food at Second Harvest Food Bank, raked leaves and cleaned at Lutheran Social Services’ Community Care Center, served food and played games at the Janet Goeske Foundation, visited residents of Orange Tree Nursing Center, prepped a food pantry at Queen of Angels Catholic Church, helped teachers at La Sierra Academy and performed many other volunteer tasks.
Yami Bazan, La Sierra’s vice president for Student Life views IGNITE’s service component as a bridge to the community and a potential spark for engaging students in future volunteer endeavors. “It is a reminder that they are here to be equipped so they can go out and serve their communities. That is the best way in which we can fulfill God’s agenda for our life,” she said.
Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz visited with some of the freshmen groups and thanked them for their efforts to help the city. He cited the city’s population of about 50,000 college and university students and suggested areas the La Sierra students might visit including parks and downtown attractions. He also commended the university for organizing the iServe program. “This is the age where [students] have a lot of things on their minds,” and volunteer and civic work may not be a priority. “It’s very intelligent of the university to provide an opportunity for them to get involved with the city,” he said.
Norco resident Kristen Brummett, age 18, raked leaves on the lawn in front of Lutheran Social Services’ Community Care Center on Taft Street. The incoming La Sierra Golden Eagles basketball player has experience helping others. “I’ve done a lot of community service through my church,” she said. Brummett says she likes to volunteer, “to help people less privileged than me.”
The students’ work allows Lutheran Social Services’ Riverside center to spend more of its tight budget on essentials, said Riverside County Area Director Helen Ross. “This team of students can do in an hour what it takes my handyman a week to get done,” she said. “It’s a way of improving the environment and quality of life of the people who live here.”
CJ Gutierrez, an incoming criminal justice major and Golden Eagles baseball recruit from Encino helped clean a storage unit at the center. Community service is “a life-changing experience,” he said. “You get a feeling in your heart when you’re doing something good.”
Click this link for a slideshow of iServe photos: bit.ly/iserve2012
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University