College students volunteering on Step Ahead Day for Faculty on Wheels write playing cards to place in backpacks full of faculty provides for unhoused youngsters. The Hub for Non secular Life provided 14 organizations for college kids to enroll in that may proceed to have service alternatives all through the college yr. Photographs by Liza Esquibias
Pepperdine’s thirty third Step Ahead Day passed off Sept. 11, with college students engaged on and off campus for 14 totally different organizations reminiscent of Midnight Mission, Jumpstart, Hand in Hand and School on Wheels.
This yr’s Step Ahead Day was the primary time college students gathered on campus to carry out a day of service since 2019, and though coupled with modifications and challenges, college students stated they felt united with the Pepperdine group.
COVID-19 restrictions and the shift of duty to the Hub for Spiritual Life each performed a job in how the College deliberate and promoted Step Ahead Day this yr, stated Olivia Robinson, assistant director of Group Engagement and Service. Nonetheless, she stated, the mission of the day has been — and all the time shall be — college students coming collectively to serve the group.
“One of many issues that personally I simply love occupied with is success of thoughts, physique and spirit,” Robinson stated. “And repair is likely one of the few issues that matches all of these areas.”
How the Day Regarded Completely different
A small gathering within the amphitheater kicked off Step Ahead Day, accompanied by a music of worship, remarks from the Hub organizers and a prayer led by the Pupil Authorities Affiliation devoted to these affected by 9/11.
College students, reminiscent of senior Anahi Casas Perez, stated volunteers historically had been met by balloons, meals vans, buses and a a lot bigger group of individuals, relatively than a prayer service.
Service has lengthy been the premise of Step Ahead Day, stated Christin Shatzer Román, director of Group Engagement and Service on the Hub. The smaller group of volunteers stemmed from redirecting funds that would have gone towards taking college students round LA for service however had been as an alternative spent on the initiatives and provides.
“There may be a variety of considered, ‘How do you do large-scale days of service to get probably the most group profit?”” Román stated. “And typically extra will not be extra — typically extra numbers truly has a diminishing regulation of return, the place extra individuals is definitely much less useful typically than a smaller group of individuals.”
Robinson stated Pepperdine additionally restricted off-campus volunteer work because of the want for tight COVID-19 security restrictions like smaller numbers of college students, vaccination compliance and masks mandates. For that reason, most organizations elected to come back to campus as an alternative.
“Many of the communities that we’d be serving are extra susceptible to COVID,” Robinson stated. “We need to be conscious and respectful of that, in realizing that we now have much more outside house than the organizations that we’d be sending college students to.”
First-year Logan Meachum, who volunteered with Midnight Mission, stated he felt the smaller group made it simpler to get to know different college students.
Senior Tasha Flaten stated she didn’t discover out Step Ahead Day was taking place this yr till the day earlier than when a good friend who works as a Resident Advisor requested if she was volunteering.
Equally, senior Rachel Stenz stated she didn’t take part in Step Ahead Day this yr as a result of she didn’t understand it was going down and made different plans for the weekend.
“As an upperclassman pupil, no one has reached out to me — given me details about how I may take part — so it’s been just a little bit in the darkish,” Stenz stated.
Román stated though there have been tables with QR codes and details about Step Ahead Time out to put it on the market, outreach targeted extra on first and second-years as a result of the Hub believed upper-level college students already had been conscious of the day from previous expertise.
Step Ahead Day is supposed to be a catalyst for college students to proceed serving group companions all year long, Román stated. All taking part organizations in addition to one shall be providing continued volunteer alternatives, which she stated the Hub inspired college students to join by finishing exit surveys on the finish of the day.
As president of the on-campus membership for worldwide group Days for Girls — which participated in Step Ahead Day — senior Stella Zheng stated she is joyful college students had been ready to enroll individually for a trigger they had been occupied with. In years prior, college students volunteered with their housing group or with different golf equipment on campus.
Zheng stated the Days for Women’ service challenge required college students to be concerned in hands-on actions reminiscent of chopping material to create sustainable interval merchandise for individuals who menstruate, so she feels grateful to the Hub for serving to present a secure atmosphere for that to be achieved.
The Regents’ Students additionally had their very own service challenge with Food Oasis, which concerned making cellphone calls and researching to assist struggle meals insecurity in LA County. Alexis Olmstead, senior and co-president of the Regents’ Scholars Student Board, stated she is happy with the College’s dedication to creating acts of service accessible even in a pandemic.
Olmstead stated she served on the chief board of her highschool’s service group. After taking part in Step Ahead Day as a first-year, nevertheless, her perspective on service deepened, and it turned a fixed in her life.
“It’s reciprocal — the place you’re giving again to anyone not only for the aim of feeling good about your self,” Olmstead stated.
Connecting Step Ahead Day and 9/11
This yr, Step Ahead Day fell on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. To commemorate the day, Robinson stated the College held a remembrance ceremony after Step Ahead Day actions concluded and introduced in organizations that profit veterans and members of the navy.
“We additionally notice that, ‘OK, effectively, how can we take part in commemorating that day?’” Robinson stated. “Realizing that there are kids of many veterans on campus, in addition to youngsters of people who find themselves deployed, that was a direct want the place we had been in a position to say, ‘OK, we will do one thing there and make an influence.’”
College students, like Hicks, stated the connection 9/11 and Step Ahead Day each need to service made the day much more particular.
“I do love that they’re doing one thing particularly for veterans on this present day, since it’s 9/11,” Hicks stated.
When occupied with the day sharing each the 9/11 commemoration and volunteer actions, Stenz stated she thinks the 2 ought to have been separate so every could possibly be given the correct recognition for his or her totally different functions.
“I really feel prefer it diminishes the aim of Step Ahead Day by nearly hitting two birds with one stone,” Stenz stated. “It feels prefer it makes every occasion much less essential due to simply making an attempt to multitask it, which feels ingenuine [sic] towards the aim of service.”
Carrying on the Legacy of the PVC
In Could 2021, the College shut down the Pepperdine Volunteer Center and relinquished its duties to different departments, one being the newly created Hub for Non secular Life.
Robinson stated college students who beforehand labored with the PVC have spoken to the Hub about feeling excluded from service alternatives as a result of they don’t seem to be spiritual.
“We’re ensuring that our employees is consultant of many various individuals from throughout totally different religion backgrounds,” Robinson stated. “We’ve been welcoming into our workplace and welcoming people who find themselves from totally different international locations, totally different views and philosophies and welcoming them to be a part of our group to be pupil leaders in a approach the place they may not be from the normal, cliche Pepperdine background, however their coronary heart is invested in service.”
Regardless of the Hub being a faith-based place on campus, Robinson stated college students who need to do service should not have to be tied to any spiritual beliefs.
“Service transcends faith — service transcends philosophy, creed and beliefs,” Robinson stated. “And it’s a human connection that anybody can take part in, regardless of the place they stand on any spiritual or philosophical spectrum.”
Zheng stated she feels the shift in departments doesn’t change the aim of Step Ahead Day, however she stated she understands why some college students could really feel excluded.
“To have the service alternatives with organizations on campus — that’s a extremely nice strategy to construct group inside our Pepperdine group,” Zheng stated. “Nonetheless, I do notice that having a non secular group run service could possibly be just a little bit discouraging to some college students.”
With a lot confusion surrounding the Hub changing the PVC, stated Olmstead, it upset her that Pepperdine didn’t take into account the feelings college students would really feel after discovering out such an essential a part of their school expertise was being taken away.
Olmstead stated whereas she identifies as Christian and doesn’t personally thoughts the Hub operating service occasions reminiscent of Step Ahead Day, she has many pals who she stated now really feel deterred from participating in these actions on account of an absence of readability on the rationale behind the sudden shift.
“I’d, I feel together with a variety of the coed physique, choose to have extra communication or simply an evidence as to why PVC even closed,” Olmstead stated.
As a first-year, Waldon Hicks stated he was upset he wouldn’t have the PVC to volunteer with as a result of that was an interesting a part of the College.
“I typically want that service right here wouldn’t all the time be linked to spirituality,” Hicks stated. “I don’t thoughts doing it; it’s simply that it will be cool to have another.”
Step Ahead Day starting with a non secular undertone reminded Hicks of why he may hesitate to volunteer with the Hub sooner or later, he stated.
Senior Maria Chavez has a Non-Profit Management minor and has participated in Step Ahead Day yearly it has been in particular person. This yr, nevertheless, she felt the unhappiness of the PVC now not current.
“I had a variety of pals that labored there and ran it,” Chavez stated. “So it’s unhappy to not see them in any respect on campus this yr as a result of I’d have hoped that they’d have transitioned from that to the brand new approach they’re doing it.”
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Contact Liza Esquibias by electronic mail: [email protected]