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New SLU Students Build on Legacy of Serving Others

by Nancy Solomon on 08/16/2019
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Saint Louis University’s newest Billikens will join in SLU’s tradition of volunteerism when they participate in New Student Day of Service on Saturday, Aug. 24.

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Volunteerism and community engagement is a critical part of the SLU experience. SLU File Photo

This is the second year for the program, which was one of the students’ favorite activities during last year’s Welcome Week, says Justin Vilbig, SLU’s service and outreach coordinator, who organizes the morning’s activities.

“Students really like being introduced to service as one of the first things they did on campus. It’s pretty elemental to the SLU experience,” Vilbig said. “The New Student Day of Service sets a framework that the city is accessible and students should take advantage of the opportunities around them.”

New SLU students will volunteer between 9 a.m. and noon at about 70 sites across the St. Louis area. While some activities are within walking distance of campus, others are a bus ride away.

Many are outdoors – beautifying neighborhoods, caring for community gardens and helping older adults with simple yard work.

Others are indoors, such as at Campus Kitchen, a national organization founded at SLU in 2001 that has spread to 65 university and high school campuses. Using food donated by campus dining halls, grocery stores, food banks and restaurants, student volunteers prepare and deliver meals to those in need.

Resident advisors (RAs) and members of Oriflamme are integrally involved with the New Student Day of Service, leading excursions and using them as a springboard for reflections that probe deeply into social justice issues.

“Their excitement for the service day is huge and their efforts are critical in helping incoming students to feel a stronger connection to the community,” Vilbig said.

Service to others is at the core of SLU’s Jesuit roots. The Princeton Review ranked SLU as the nation’s second most engaged campus in community service.

Last year, to celebrate its bicentennial year, SLU pledged to involve students, alumni, faculty staff and community members in donating at least 200 years of service – 1.7 million hours – in one year. SLU surpassed that goal, giving back 225 years, 6 months, 5 days and 7 hours of service to others, which was noted on a huge clock formerly at Lindell and Grand.

At Saturday’s event, new SLU students will work side-by-side with their classmates to make a meaningful impact on the community. They likely will build close connections with each other, and in many cases, with the organizations where they volunteer, Vilbig said.

“Part of our hope is these will become sustained relationships,” Vilbig said. “It’s a way for us to say, ‘Welcome to our campus. It’s all around you.’”