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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

On Freshman Day of Service, a tribute to first responders and civil rights icons

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Jasmine Baker.

A record number of GW students – nearly 2,400 – spread across the city to schools, parks and community groups Saturday for GW’s fifth-annual service day to commemorate the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

At Freshman Day of Service, a hallmark of GW’s volunteer programs, students and alumni spent the afternoon with University President Steven Knapp  sprucing up D.C. Fire and EMS Training Academy, one of the newly added service sites. Students took school buses to a total of 40 sites, five more than last year, helping to clean up D.C. public schools and parks or company groups such as Campus Kitchens.

GW counted its most students ever taking part in Freshman Day of Service. Cameron Lancaster | Contributing Photo Editor

Casey Lamar, a junior enrolled in GW’s Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps, was one of 100 students serving Saturday at the training academy, which has recently pushed to bring more veterans into its ranks and help to turn the solders into first responders.

As he works toward joining the Marine Corps as a lieutenant, Lamar has dedicated himself to community service in the District and beyond. Last year, he and his unit headed north to help families recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

“I have a strong belief that it’s important for people to serve and fight for what they believe in,” he said. “That’s why I’m here and why I take time out of my day to do what I can to help people out.”

GW volunteers helped paint 18,000 square feet of the training facility, as well as built new picnic tables and cleaned up the landscaping around the building. GW partnered with the city’s fire department and volunteers from an organization called My Good Deeds and Mission Continues, which is dedicated to supporting veterans in life after the military.

Knapp said the students’ work at the training academy honors first responders, a type of community leader who helped preserve democracy on the local level.

Geoff Ball, a 2012 alumnus, paints at the D.C. Fire and EMS Training Academy. Cameron Lancaster | Contributing Photo Editor

“These are the people who are going to rescue our citizens. They are also the ones who are preparing for an emergency that might happen,” Knapp said.  “God forbid there was a terrorist incident, or anything like that, they’re at the forefront of the that. They’re really at the front lines of protecting our citizens and preserving their safety and their security in this city.”

Freshman Day of Service was also part of the University’s educational campaign in remembrance of the civil rights campaign and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this year.

Roslyn Brock, chairwoman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the freshman class gathered in the Smith Center to think about civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. as they volunteered around D.C.

About a week after tens of thousands flocked to the National Mall to remember the March on Washington, Brock led the Class of 2017 in a pledge to be “servant leaders” and dedicate themselves to their communities.

“Life is about others, and service to others, my friends, is the rent we pay for the space we occupy,” Brock, an alumna, said. “We all have an invested interest in improving the plight of our neighbors and our community across the length and breadth of this nation.”

Amy Cohen, director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, hoped the theme of democracy would resonate with students as they traveled around communities in D.C.

“We are helping to ensure that dream of democracy for all,” Cohen said. “Direct service is really connected with solving public problems and being a citizen.”


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