Many UC Irvine students choose to spend their free time volunteering around Orange County, whether it is through an organization on-campus or one that is outside of school. Now there is a program offered through UCI that involves students in volunteer service projects, and provides them with resources that aim to increase their awareness of social issues within Orange County.
The Community Service Leadership Program is designed to educate students in service learning and leadership and provide real-world experience through participation in various community service events.
CSLP was the creation of Dr. Jeanett Castellanos and Andrew Gonzales, director and assistant director of the Social Science Academic Resource Center, respectively. They wanted to enable UCI students to participate in an organized, service-learning program, accredited and recognized by the School of Social Sciences.
The program was established during the 2006-07 school year, and its members have been involved with many community service projects. CSLP has teamed up with local organizations, including the Orange County Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity’s Village of Hope, Healthbridge’s Children’s Hospital and Operation Christmas Child. The program also partnered up with local non-profit organizations to provide interactive workshops and lectures for its members.
Currently, CSLP members visit the Orange County Rescue Mission, a local homeless shelter, on the third Saturday of every month.
“We all spend the day serving food for the homeless men and women, talking with them and keeping them company,” said CSLP Public Relations Officer Matthew Seamon. On the second Saturday of every month, CSLP also visits Healthbridge Children’s Hospital to spend time with the kids. Members entertain the kids by reading, singing and playing with them.
In past projects, the CSLP partnered with Operation Christmas Child last November to collect shoeboxes with children’s toys. CSLP hosted the collection site on campus and, with the aid of other UCI organizations, helped process the donations. Members also recently volunteered for the staff of the Multiple Sclerosis Walk event held at UCI on April 12.
This year, the CSLP took a step forward by organizing and hosting its own events. In February, the program hosted its first annual Mega Drive, which was held in Aldrich Park. It was called “Mega Drive,” because it consisted of four charitable collections: a canned food drive, a used clothing drive, a stuffed animal and toys drive and a children’s book drive.
“The event was a huge success and we collected bags and bags of goods to be given to those in need in the Orange County community,” Seamon said. The donations from the event are currently being sorted and processed and will soon be given to the Orange County Rescue Mission and Healthbridge Children’s Hospital.
Admission into the CSLP is fairly selective. Students are required to fill out an application, and must go through an interview process at the beginning of the year. Those selected must then complete a series of requirements.
“Students are required to take one of a variety of classes here at UCI dealing with leadership and service learning,” Seamon said. “They are also required to complete a specific number of volunteer projects throughout the year, and also attend a variety of [public] workshops and guest lectures as well.”
At these workshops, a representative from a local non-profit organization speaks about his or her organization, the importance of community service and how to develop leadership skills. Students must also take a course from a pre-approved list, which currently consists of Social Science 181, Social Science 189, Social Science 194 and Anthropology 136D.
“The idea behind these courses is to balance the CSLP so that when students graduate from our program, they have learned from their experiences, gained communication, leadership and interpersonal skills, and have been exposed to social and cultural issues in the local community and in the world at large,” Seamon said.
Many of the listed courses also require additional community service hours outside of the events. Meetings occur once or twice a quarter. At the end of the year, a banquet honors members who have completed the program requirements. These members receive a diploma, endorsed by the School of Social Sciences, certifying their accomplishments.
Students who are interested in joining CSLP are encouraged to apply now, and can pick up an application at the Social Science Academic Resource Center, located in SST 370. For any questions regarding the application or CSLP, students can contact Vicki Chan at email@example.com.