Written by: Kamini Balaji, Engr '09
with input from Wren Haaland, A&S '09, Emery Laiw, A&S '95, and Sage Ramadge, A&S '99
For many years, Freshman Service Day was a signature event of Freshman Orientation on the Homewood campus. It allowed incoming classes to bond with each other and to feel part of their new neighborhood. In 2009, President Ron Daniels expanded on this idea and brought it to the entire JHU campus. Now, every October, over 1,000 undergraduate students participate in the aptly named President’s Day of Service (PDOS) to serve their local community.
When I joined the San Francisco JHU Young Alumni Committee earlier this year, I knew that I wanted to organize a volunteer event. Volunteering gives individuals a stake in their community, a chance to give back, to feel good that they are helping those less fortunate than themselves, and allows them to forge bonds with those they work with. I purposely timed the event with JHU’s President’s Day of Service to garner more interest in the event and to increase school pride. Additionally, I sent an email blast to other JHU alumni organizations to get them involved. The response was awesome, and this year we had four alumni organizations join PDOS to make it a truly nationwide JHU service day.
The Seattle Alumni Chapter spent their day in nature, working with the Nature Consortium to clear 6,300 square feet of invasive plants in the West Duwamish Greenbelt, the largest contiguous forest in Seattle.
In Los Angeles, for the second year in a row, the Alumni Chapter partnered with local non-profit, Para Los Niños, for an organized day of career mentoring. Alumni from varied backgrounds spent 3.5 hours meeting at-risk youth to discuss their futures. Almost 60 students signed up for this Saturday morning event, a nearly 50% increase from last year, and several alumni came out for their first local Hopkins event. The university graciously provided T-shirts and other items to give to the youth. At the end of the event, the youth nearly missed their buses, eager for more time with our alumni, and the alumni remarked that lasting relationships were formed, after several exchanged contact information with the students.
The New York City Alumni Chapter ran the Haunted Harlem Halloween Hash Run for StreetSquash, a youth sports and education program for Harlem public school students. Along with members of StreetSquash's NYC Marathon Team, volunteers ran and raised money to support StreetSquash's college access programs. 100% of StreetSquash students graduate high school and are accepted into college. 83% are currently enrolled or have earned a college degree.
Here in San Francisco, we volunteered at the SF Food Bank, organizing unlabeled canned goods that had been donated. In true JHU fashion, we optimized the assembly line process of discarding bad cans, separating the good cans based on food contents, labeling the cans, and packaging them for shipment. Working at breakneck speed, we actually completed all the work that had been allotted for us for the day with an hour left to spare in our shift. After our shift, there was an overwhelming response from my fellow volunteers that they were so glad to have participated in the event and to have had a chance to do some good.
As the inaugural year of a nationwide JHU service event, PDOS ‘12 was a hands-down success. Moving forward, our hope is to build upon our success, and to get even more alumni and alumni chapters across the country involved. By doing so, we can create a strong bond with each other, with our communities, and with our alma mater.