Monday, June 12, 2017

Learning In Action: Service Opportunities at UVa

Trust me, I know that in high school “community service” seems daunting. It was always in the back of our minds as something that we probably should do but, like, do we really have to, with such busy schedules already?

But ever since coming to UVa as a first year student, I’ve found that one of my favorite things to be involved with at the university is actually volunteering and giving back to the Charlottesville community. I believe that this comes in large part from the number of CIOs and organizations that we have here that are dedicated to service and volunteer workorganizations that give back to the community, but also become a community in themselves.

For me, I found a home in Alpha Phi Omega, or APO, a co-ed service fraternity with chapters at many universities across the country. Collectively, at our UVa chapter, we complete over 3,000 hours of service each semester in Charlottesville and beyond. Much of this service is completed on Saturday mornings throughout the school year, when we volunteer for projects from building chicken coops to clearing trails to setting up cots and linens for temporary shelters. These projects gave me the opportunity to really step outside the ‘bubble’ that you may find yourself in on a college campus, and really explore and better understand the realities of the city that I now call my home.

While for me, I found my love for service at UVA within APO, others can also find the opportunities for service within many of the other university organizations. For example, Madison House is a student-run and student-led organization that encourages one to three hour volunteer shifts a week with any of its over 160 partner organizations in Charlottesville. Greek sororities and fraternities also put on a number of philanthropies to raise money for many different Charlottesville organizations and charities.

Madison House (photo courtesy of The Cavalier Daily)
For incoming students, there is also the chance to jump right into service with a program called Project SERVE, which is a part of First Year Orientation. This not only an occasion to meet other incoming first years, but also to get familiarized with local agencies and nonprofit organizations that often work with and rely on the commitment and passion of UVa students. Project SERVE participants spend an afternoon before the start of the fall semester working at food drives, elementary schools, community gardens, walking trails, or anywhere else within the Charlottesville community that’s in need of an extra hand. This year, Project SERVE will take place on Friday, August 25, from 2-6 p.m.

Past Project SERVE Participants (photo courtesy of
Beyond just first year, opportunities are always available to get involved in service. One of the key resources to find volunteering events and organizations in Charlottesville is Learning in Action, or "the front door to public service at the University of Virginia," designed to connect students, faculty, and community partners. Learning In Action can be found at, where students can sign up not only for annual volunteer events like Project SERVE and Pancakes for Parkinson's, which raised $63,000 last year to go towards Parkinson's research, but also for independent or repeating events throughout the year, such as the Charlottesville farmer's market every Saturday or the Game Day Challenge for recycling at football and basketball games. 

Whether it's cleaning up the river under Beta Bridge on Earth Day with university sustainability groups, growing plants with City Schoolyard Garden, or doing construction with Habitat for Humanity, there is always a chance to partner with organizations to connect the UVa experience with the greater Charlottesville community. Service is not only a great way to meet others and get involved, but is also an important aspect of doing your part to better the city that you call home as a University of Virginia student.

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