UM students unite for the first service day of the year

More than 200 University of Miami students boarded buses Saturday Aug. 25 and headed to Comstock Elementary School in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood.

day of service
Sebastian the Ibis and UM student paint a pole at Comstock Elementary School as a part of the Orientation Outreach Day of Service. Photo credit: UM News

By the time students left, the school had a new mural on the wall, fresh coats of paint on most outdoor poles and inspirational posters lining the hallways.

“In Miami there’s so much wealth, but also so much poverty, so I think it’s important to give back,” said Katie Ghougasian, a freshman chemistry major.

Ghougasian said that she first heard about Orientation Outreach from advertisements in the Shalala Center and decided to sign up because she wanted to help the community.

Comstock’s principal, Orna Campbell, thanked participants for creating a better learning environment for her students.

“Our children need encouragement constantly to know that there is something out there more than they have,” Campbell said. “I need them to see that they have opportunities.”

She said most of her students come from disadvantaged households, and expressed the importance of positive role models, saying Comstock students can look up to the UM students, like Ghougasian, who helped her school.

“My favorite part of today was just seeing everyone work together towards the same common goal of trying to improve these kids’ education by making their school a better place to be,” Ghougasian said.

Senior Erin Gallogly said this was her third year as a site leader for Orientation Outreach. She said despite some thunderstorms, the day was a success.

“Honestly, I think everyone adapted really well,” said Gallogly, a public health major.

Gallogly said braving any amount of rain would be worth the chance to brighten a child’s day.

“I love getting to see the reactions once we go to a place and help out,” she said. “It’s just very satisfying to see how much of an impact we’re having.”

Gallogly said students looking to make a difference should ask around to find out how their peers are getting involved, or visit the Butler Center to learn about its various service opportunities.

“They’re the best and they know what’s going on on campus,” Gallogly said.

Andrew Wiemer, the Butler Center’s Director of Programs, also underscored the importance of volunteering, saying that service work allows people to better understand the issues facing their communities.

“I think it is important for everyone, especially students, to become engaged in their community,” Wiemer said. “Each of us has the power to make a difference in the world each day and it is through service that we can make some of the most impact in our community.”