New service project includes all students

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When listing several other university values on their website, Pacific states that outsiders are drawn to the campus for its “emphasis on public service.” This year, that emphasis will continue to be shown with the first ever Pacific Day of Service.
Before reaching out to volunteer groups and individuals, Director of Center for Civic Engagement Stephanie Stokamer first had to contact Pacific’s community partners. Local businesses and organizations were asked if they had any projects that needed to be completed on their site and then Stokamer proceeded to ask for more details. Specifics discussed were water availability to participants, tools needed, number of participants needed and the overall goal for the site.
During the event, members of the Pacific community go out into different areas of Forest Grove, Cornelius and Hillsboro to work together, completing various projects. The majority of the assigned restoration, gardening, organizing and inventory projects are within a mile distance of the Forest Grove campus while one project will be completed in Cornelius and three more in Hillsboro.
In previous years, Pacific had scheduled another day-long event similar to the Day of Service, then known as “Sprucing Up the Grove.” The event was originally the last of many activities planned out for freshmen to participate in during orientation week. According to Stokamer, it was time for a change in the way the service day was being planned and executed.
Because Sprucing Up the Grove was the last in the series of orientation events, Stokamer said that feedback from orientation leaders revealed a lot of “last minute” effort to plan service sights, student accommodations and transportation. The experience was far more exhausting and stressful than rewarding or enjoyable to the leaders said Stokamer.
Furthermore, Stokamer and other members of the CCE staff felt it fitting for the center to take the reins on planning the service project, as it is their area of expertise.
Rather than gearing the event toward incoming students and their orientation leaders, the new Day of Service allows all students as well as faculty to get involved in the outer community. With this, Stokamer feels the event will no longer be “loosely supported” by students.
Although there are campus clubs, organizations and classes currently enlisted to take part in Pacific’s Day of Service, Stokamer estimated that nearly half of the list consists of people who signed up individually.
While she has little concern about getting both the campus and outside community involved, Stokamer emphasized this is “clearly an experiment.” She sees other potential issues that could arise.
“I am expecting something to go wrong,” said Stokamer.
Examples of things that could go amiss are having too few or too many participants working on a project and having to potentially cancel that project.  Because of this, Stokamer said she will not be out in the field on service day among participants but waiting in her office, at her desk, with her cell phone ready by her side.
When asked about how the Day of Service differs from other local universities’ day-long community service projects, Stokamer pointed out that she has noticed many of these schools’ service days are expanding. Because of this, the focus is no longer on what the community needs but on how to occupy the students said Stokamer and in effect, “you lose quality.”
The Day of Service may be an experiment for the time being but according to Stokamer, there is still a way to measure success.
“It’s not just about participation,” said Stokamer. The overall goal is to walk away with a “meaningful experience” between community members and students.
On an even greater scale, Stokamer hopes that the Day of Service will continue to instill the “spirit of service on campus” that Pacific currently strives for. “It’s really important that we think of civic engagement as more than a requirement,” Stokamer said.
Pacific’s first Day of Service will take place on Saturday, Sept. 15. All participants will meet and sign in at 9 a.m. in the UC.


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