With all the press the Union government has received for its work in securing a student voice in budgetary committees, some of its other triumphs have flown below the radar.  The Clubs in Service program is one of my favorite Union initiatives this year, and its great intentions and success are unfortunately under-recognized.

Jason Gray first announced and described the program in November during last semester’s State of the Union:

The University’s Department of Community Service has the resources and connections for all clubs to be able to partner with Waltham and provide services to the community.

For example, the debate team could teach public speaking at a local school. An a capella group could sing at a local shelter. Your club can play chess or knit at a nursing home, shoot hoops at the Boys and Girls Club, cook a holiday meal for those in need, or organize a talent show at the YMCA. The opportunities are endless.

Every club could have a community-service component to it.

Today we challenge every club and organization to engage the community in service, and we commit ourselves to helping this challenge succeed.

The Hoot’s article on the speech included my very positive first impression of the idea.  And yes, I am about to blockquote myself:

Student Union Vice President Adam Hughes ’11 said after the address that while the Union’s executive board has yet to discuss how it will specifically aid clubs in adding a community service component, he hopes to make it as easy as possible for clubs to meet Gray’s “audacious call to action.”

Hughes said he imagines that the Union would “spend a significant amount of time next semester” helping to connect clubs with Waltham organizations.

“We don’t want this to be a huge ordeal for any club,” Hughes said. “This is a great actualization of Brandeis goals, and we want to make it as easy as possible for clubs to achieve.”

Here on Innermost Parts, Loki was more to the point:

Ideologically, I was most struck by  the point near the end of the speech when Jason challenged every single club to get involved in the surrounding community. This. is. a. fucking. great. idea.

I was involved in some of the early planning discussions when the program itself began to take shape.  The Union government would do the publicity, reaching out to clubs by e-mail and in person to get them on board.  They would send the clubs to the Waltham Group, who already had a great list of contacts and potential programs for clubs to be involved in.  The Waltham Group would work with the club leaders to plan a service event that would incorporate each club’s unique focus and to work out all the logistics.  In the end, we would be left with the perfect synergy of student resources to take advantage of our ability and desire to improve the Waltham community.

The program was launched in early February.  Class of 2012 Senator Akash Vadalia led the Union side of the program, and his great outreach laid the groundwork for success.  His goal was to get 15 clubs to participate in this, the program’s first semester, which would lay the groundwork for expanding it in the future.

Did we get there?  Just ask Jason:

This semester, some 31 clubs have signed up to participate and involve their clubs in community service.

Jason and Akash deserve tons of credit for leading the program to success beyond anyone’s expectations, and the Waltham Group worked tirelessly to accommodate every club sent their way.  And though Clubs in Service has already done amazing work in the community, its future is even brighter.  The program has a friend in a very high place: Union President-Elect Andy Hogan.  Andy made the expansion and institutionalization of Clubs in Service one of his foremost campaign platforms, and with his strong track record of planning successful community service projects (the Combating Hate fundraiser, the Rwandan rape victim fundraiser, past involvement in Clubs in Service), I’m confident that he’ll make the program even stronger.

If you’re involved with a club that hasn’t participated in Clubs in Service yet, you should definitely try to get it involved.  I’m not sure if the program is still active this semester, but it’s worth finding out.  At the very least, it’s never too early to start planning for next year.  Contact Jason (jgray@brandeis.edu), Akash (akashv@brandeis.edu), or Andy (alhogan@brandeis.edu) for more information (I’m not sure who would be best right now, but I’m sure any of them could point you in the right direction).  Community service is such a great way to make a difference in so many people’s lives, and I’m proud that Brandeis has proven itself a leader yet again.

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