First impressions — SYNC shows freshmen UI’s commitment to service
This year’s Serving Your New Community service project exceeded University of Idaho organizers’ expectations with 750 participants on Aug. 18.
Bruce Mann, ASUI Center for Volunteerism and Social Action coordinator, said he estimated a turnout of 500-600 students before the event. When SYNC leaders ran out of T-shirts at 650 participants, Mann said it was a little overwhelming but exciting to see the scope of the event.
“Our goal is to instill that initial value of what service means to the university and community so hopefully students can get a little taste,” Mann said. “It’s a gateway to find aspects of service they might be interested in.”
SYNC was started three years ago as a project with Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute. Mann said about 400 students distributed sustainable light bulbs in the community. Since then the number of participants has nearly doubled and 19 service sites were included this year.
Part of UI junior Clare Haley’s job as a summer coordinator in the ASUI Center for Volunteerism and Social Action was
to find suitable volunteer sites in Moscow for SYNC.
“I looked for locations that had a need that students could physically help out with that had an immediate impact on the community,” she said.
Some of the projects this year included a canned food drive for the Trinity Baptist Food Pantry and a tree planting project with the UI Sustainability Center. Students also volunteered at the Moscow Community Garden.
Although she didn’t participate in SYNC as a freshman, Haley said she has been involved with other UI volunteer programs such as ASUI Alternative Service Breaks and Saturday of Service. She said SYNC is a good program to connect students with the community and meet other people with similar interests in a positive environment during the first week of school.
“I’m glad volunteerism is such a huge part of our community, and it’s good to see students coming out for SYNC and trying to give back to the community,” Haley said.
Mann said SYNC is an important program for students to participate in because the
role of higher education institutions is more than vocational training.
“It’s really about developing future leaders and change agents that will create positive social change,” he said.
Mann said although many students may not be going into service-oriented careers, projects like SYNC teach students compassion and the importance of looking out for the common good — lessons that university leaders took part in this year.
UI President M. Duane Nellis and Dean of Students Bruce Pitman participated in stream cleanup projects during SYNC. Mann said the presence of university leaders showed their support and commitment to sharing the university’s objective of developing good citizens.
Mann attributed the rapid growth of SYNC to its current staff, faculty and student encouragement for freshman to participate.
In order to accommodate the large number of participants, Mann said slight changes will be implemented next year.
Mann said one issue with SYNC this year is that there was double the number of volunteers they expected on some projects, which meant the projects were finished faster than expected with not enough work for everyone.
Mann said the ASUI Center for Volunteerism and Social Action and UI New Student Orientation will work together to potentially devise a project that could support hundreds of volunteers. Smaller groups of volunteers would also be sent to various projects throughout the community.
In the end, Mann said the unexpectedly high turnout is a good problem to have.
Elisa Eiguren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org