Students Plunge Into Community Service

Students dedicated Saturday to volunteering at 15 different locations in the Tampa Bay community.

 

Students walk into 22nd Street Park to clean and spruce up the area as part of Community Plunge.

 

By Daylina Miller

USF.edu News Writer

 

TAMPA, Fla. (August 31, 2010) This past weekend, hundreds of students from the University of South Florida volunteered their first Saturday morning of the semester to perform community service at 15 locations in the Tampa Bay area.

 

At 8 a.m., students registered for USF’s “Community Plunge” lined up for their bagel and orange juice breakfast before heading out with various organizations in Tampa and St. Petersburg to give back to the community.

 

Every year, USF hosts the Community Plunge as a kickoff to various community service events hosted by the university throughout the fall and spring semesters. Hundreds of students register beforehand to take part through Greek organizations, clubs or individually.

 

“My favorite part about participating is that it's a hands-on way to give back to the community,” said Torie Doll, a sophomore majoring in telecommunications.  “I could always donate money to an organization but that's so impersonal. I like to get more involved and interact with the group that needs help.”

 

Jennifer Espinola, director of the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, welcomed the students and thanked them for their volunteer efforts. She reminded students that they were not just there to get volunteer credits or fulfill Greek obligations, but to really give back to the community.

 

“I hope you go to your site and really invest yourselves,” Espinola said. “We can double what we can do if we really invest ourselves.”

 

Student Body President Cesar Hernandez inspired students with his uplifting speech.

 

“I walk by a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. every day,” Hernandez said. “If one man can change the world, imagine what 48,000 of you can do.”

 

Several teams headed out together to three parks in Tampa to help members of Tampa Bay Beautification, an organization dedicated to improving Tampa Bay’s neighborhoods, parks and streetscapes.

 

At 22nd Street Park, a small, overgrown park just a few miles from USF, students were given litter-grabbers, trash bags and canvas gloves and asked to pick up litter and man-made debris from the trails inside the woods.

 

This was the first year that this park welcomed student volunteers. 22nd Street Park is used during natural disasters, such as hurricanes, to store debris until it can be properly disposed of. The students’ job was to clear out trash such as empty soda cans, tires, rotting furniture and various household appliances.

 

Doll, alongside her Phi Sigma Pi fraternity brothers Josh Lieberman and Caitlin Howell, donned her gloves and insect repellant and braved the forest thickets to hunt for trash.

 

 “I gained a better understanding of invasive species and their effect on the environment, an understanding of how much trash can accumulate in a wooded area that is not regularly cleaned, and a sense of accomplishment that comes from volunteering and making a difference in the community,” said Howell, a junior and chemistry major.

 

Daylina Miller covers student activities and trends. She can be reached at 813-500-8754.