While classes at the University of Alabama start Wednesday, hundreds of students began early by doing work in the Tuscaloosa community.
On Monday, 440 students took part in different Ripple Effect programs across Tuscaloosa County as part of the university’s Center for Service and Leadership. The program, which has been held the Monday before classes start every year for the last 22 years, is designed to allow students to participate in different organizations in the community.
“I think it was a great day to start a ripple,” said Courtney Thomas, the center’s director. “We want them to have their first exposure in the community that will hopefully continue on.”
During the day, groups of students went to different parts of the Tuscaloosa area to do volunteer work — some helped teachers out in different schools, while others cleaned up at housing developments. In addition to work at the UA Arboretum, students worked on a Habitat for Humanity house on Elizabeth Street, and some students volunteered at Westlawn and Eastwood middle schools as well as Crestmont, Holt, Matthews, Southview and Woodland Forrest elementary schools.
Eric Ward, a team leader for a student group working Wednesday at Southview Elementary, said one aspect of the program is finding something students can be passionate about in Tuscaloosa.
“We want there to be a feeling that while you might be miles and miles away from home, you have a home here on campus,” Ward said.
Southview Principal Yosondra Lett said having student volunteers help out with classes was a positive influence for her students.
“Any time we can get help, we are always happy about that, not only because of the extra hands, but I just love my students being able to see college students because we are getting our students ready so they can learn about different careers and possibly going to college,” Lett said.
Thomas said she has been encouraged by the growth of the Ripple Effect program throughout the years.
“It’s been incredible to see how students have gravitated to it and know that service is part of life,” Thomas said. “It’s just exciting and uplifting to see a generation say ‘This is important to us.’ “
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