Excelling in volunteerism

Photo courtesy of USI photo services

Dark clouds sent down gusts of wind, chilling the 160 students, staff and alumni volunteers gathering around the UC fountain. The cold volunteers were divided into 11 work areas for the annual Spruce Up USI, with tasks of spreading mulch, planting flowers, and more to help bring the university into the spring season.

Caylin Blockley, assistant director of Alumni Relations and Volunteer USI, said the event was supposed to be a one-time event in honor of Volunteer USI reaching one million hours. Yet Spruce Up was so popular the first time it has grown into a tradition the whole campus looks forward to.

Blockley said this year, Spruce Up held new meaning and purpose since Volunteer USI is now celebrating a total of 2 million hours of volunteer service since its founding in 1996.

“Hitting 2 million hours is just really, really great,” Blockley said. “This is a very unique program. Not every school has a volunteer program as robust as USI. We’re really proud of it and want to make sure everyone knows about it.”

Blockley said in honor of the new record and national volunteer week, Volunteer USI is hosting volunteer opportunities for the whole week to promote volunteerism, with Spruce Up as the kick-off event.

“Volunteerism is really, really great for several different reasons,” Blockley said. “For everyone just to come here and give up their time to give back, the feeling you get is really great. That’s what Volunteer USI does. We promote and want to improve our campus.”

Eager to help, Te’Ayla Whitfield took part in her first Spruce Up.

Coming with Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), Whitfield said the event is a great way to clean the environment and give back to the school.

Whitfield said her favorite part of the day was networking with other volunteers and that it’s a great way to meet and enjoy new people.

“I’m shocked at how many volunteers came out,” the senior accounting major said. “I think more people should get involved because it’s a nice way to just get out. You make new friends, getting involved, and it looks good on resumes.”

With spring coming around the corner, Whitfield said it’s nice to look at the flowers the university puts out. Now she said she can walk around and say “I helped do that,” making it even more pretty for her.

Ryan Clark, another member of BAP, has been enjoying the community service opportunity for three years.

“I think it looks good whenever we can help out and make the school look better,” the senior accounting major said. “I think (volunteering) is important. It’s good when you can get all the students to work together.”

Clark said that volunteer opportunities have other benefits besides contributing to the community. They teach teamwork with others, which Clark said will beneficial to all students as they move on from college into the working world.

Overall, Clark believes this is a great way to give back to the university, after all, it has done for him.

“I think helping out at USI, it kind of makes me feel like it’s come full circle. They’ve done a lot for me especially helping me get a job and that type of thing with going out of college. It’s good to give back to them.”

Clark said he’s had a good time at the university and enjoyed doing this Spruce Up for USI.

“I think it’s a really good project they do every spring semester,” Clark said. “I’ll miss it a little bit.  At one point you kind of want to be lazy and do nothing on a Sunday afternoon, but I know a few of my friends came back even after graduation, so I might do that too.”