Community Service Launches Fall Semester

September 16, 2001

Paula J. Eichenbrenner, <i>Hullabaloo</i> staff writer
Phone: (504) 865-5210

Over Labor Day weekend, Tulane students were leaving campus by the hundreds--and not just to celebrate the three-day weekend at home or at the beach. Over 200 incoming and returning Tulane students, as well as faculty and staff members, participated in the 11th annual Outreach Tulane community service event on Sept. 1.

Those that served in Outreach Tulane 2001 accomplished 11 different community service projects, from making lunch for the homeless, planting a garden with mentally disabled citizens, playing Bingo with nursing home residents, to working at Tulane University's own Upward Bound office. D. Hamilton Simons-Jones, the director of Community Services Coordination, explained that the project sites chosen for Outreach Tulane were either previously established partners for Tulane community service, or special sites that asked for assistance.

Simons-Jones, a Tulane class of 2001 graduate, explained why he feels that community service is an extremely valuable aspect of an education, affording some of lifes most worthwhile lessons. He said, "Tulane can at times be a homogeneous, self-enclosed population, but it's easy for students to take advantage of the many new places and situations open to them through community service."

Megan Flynn, a Newcomb College sophomore, said she participated in Outreach 2001 because the number of projects available allowed me to choose something different and to try a different type of community service.

Flynn volunteered with the Salvation Army Center of Hope, and washed and cleaned the disaster canteen truck. During Outreach Tulane, the University's largest annual community service event, University President Scott Cowen joined the many students painting the playground equipment and asphalt area at the Audubon Montessori School.

Outreach Tulane is an excellent starting point for many of the growing number of Tulane students who become committed to community service throughout their college career. As President Cowen stated in a press release, "The goal of Outreach Tulane is to instill in new and returning Tulane students a commitment to the community in which they live and learn. We would like this one-day event to be the start of a lifetime of service."

Newcomb College Acting Dean Cynthia Lowenthal, who also volunteered at the Audubon Montessori school, spoke of the immediate gratification gained from completing her Outreach project, as well as the pleasure of connecting with a group of committed students.

Dean Lowenthal said, "I would encourage all students to participate in community service projects, for such work produces a ripple effect in terms of its benefits: not only do the recipients of outreach projects have their lives improved, but those who perform the service find their lives enriched by the experiences. And, of course, those benefits encourage further service!"

Simons-Jones further emphasized this sentiment, stressing that the most meaningful service comes once one has performed regular volunteerism and formed a close relationship with someone else and directly impacted that person's life. He said that by working closely with someone and by influencing another's life for the better through your relationship, you truly come to know them and also to know yourself.

Russ Giveans, an Engineering College sophomore, participated in Outreach Tulane at the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH), where he played games with children with severe emotional problems. Giveans is a regular volunteer at NOAH, and he said his motivation for volunteering is the smiles that his work brings to the children's faces.

Though the percentage of women who are actively involved in community service on this campus is slightly higher than that of men, Giveans is an example of the many community-oriented Tulane men making a difference in our city. Many students like Flynn and Giveans who participated in Outreach Tulane planned to participate in the 4th Annual Rally for New Orleans Public Schools on September 15.

This citywide event, with four different local public schools as worksites, was expected to attract well over 2000 volunteers who will serve together to provide facility improvements for New Orleans schoolchildren. Close to 150 Tulane students are expected to join other volunteers at the Thomy Lafon Elementary School, the site closest to Tulane's campus. During her Outreach Tulane experience, Hari Tunuguntla, a Newcomb College sophomore, scraped rusting paint and primed the Thomy Lafon Elementary School in preparation for the Rally for New Orleans Public Schools.

Of her experience, Tunuguntla said, "It helped me to realize all the aspects of my education that I take for granted." She is planning on returning to Thomy Lafon Elementary this Saturday to participate in the Rally. Explaining how excited she is to be going back to finish what she started two weeks ago at Outreach Tulane, Tunuguntla said, "Since becoming a college student, I have recognized the importance of a solid education, and in participating in this community service I hope that I can help in some way with the education of New Orleans schoolchildren."

Volunteers for the Rally for N.O. Public Schools planned to work to prove that individuals can and do make a difference. The New Orleans Public Schools Alumni Association is leading the project, which is the largest single-weekend, community service event in Louisiana. Speaking of the Rally, New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial stated in a press release, "What began four years ago as a simple grassroots effort to fill in the gaps in the systems infrastructure is now a tried and true method for citizens to show their support for the children of New Orleans."

The Rally has directly improved the learning environments of more than 8000 local schoolchildren and has generated the equivalent of over $1,000,000 in labor and financial/in-kind donations. While the numbers speak strongly of the Rallys impact, the bottom line is that as students, Tulane's members share a great deal with the local schoolchildren that tomorrow's event will benefit.

The pursuit of knowledge is the foundation of any school anywhere, and though Tulane students may only be a part of New Orleans for a short four years, they still owe a direct responsibility to the other students of their community. As Simons-Jones said, "We are part of a community far beyond ourselves and our walls."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000