Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Officials to clear homeless encampment near campus in May
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • March 4, 2024

Quick Take: After low turnout at Convocation, remember to serve others

Community service is voluntary but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it.

GW’s Welcome Day of Service and Convocation ceremony are meant to kick off first-year students’ University experience and involve them in hands-on service projects around D.C. But this year’s event had a problem: turnout was abysmal.

When I sat in the Smith Center last year for Convocation, I looked around at a packed arena. This year, as a volunteer service site leader, I watched as the few students who came struggled to fill the folding chairs in the Smith Center. While some of us may have preferred sleeping late to serving, we showed up.

The University’s apparent commitment to service throughout the District excited and empowered me to pursue service opportunities and forge connections with local organizations as a first-year last year. I felt fortunate to be among passionate, service-minded students who volunteered to paint and organize classrooms at Bruce Monroe Elementary School.

Granted, our Welcome Day of Service was Aug. 27, smack dab in the middle of orientation week, compared to this year’s event Sept. 23. This difference in dates probably affected turnout, too. Amid students’ whispers and annoyance that they’d even shown up, site leaders reckoned with the reality that voluntary service really does mean voluntary.

As University President Ellen Granberg and Provost Chris Bracey addressed the freshman class, employees and volunteers for the Honey W. Nashman Center Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service scrambled to find a way to keep their commitment to service sites with so few students. Rainy weather also led officials to cancel some events altogether.

Despite the chaos, I was lucky to have team members at all — and dedicated, driven ones at that. We worked together to help Malcolm X Elementary School better organize materials and rooms for students and teachers to use on a day-to-day basis. Not every site leader was as lucky — for some, motivating students to put in good work for the short period of time they volunteered was an uphill battle.

Community service may be non-compulsory, but don’t skip out on it — not showing up deprives you of the privilege to help others and jeopardizes much-needed and carefully planned projects to serve the District.

The limited attendance for the Welcome Day of Service was disappointing, but it wasn’t time misspent. Despite a small turnout, we were able to give back to many neighboring communities. Surrounding oneself with service-minded, compassionate, empathetic and driven individuals at the Nashman Center and elsewhere is one of the most gratifying ways to find your place at an independent school like GW.

Though students can often feel separate from the rest of D.C., we do not live in a vacuum. Basic acts of service don’t just help us to feel better about ourselves, they make the city we live in — one we share with nearly 700,000 other people — a better place. At GW, we have an obligation to give back to our city, not just our campus.

Change happens one person at a time. While doing just a few hours of service at a school might feel like a drop in an ocean of need, all service is impactful.

Granberg boasted of the intelligent, strong-willed and hard-working Class of 2027 in her remarks — features said to characterize the typical GW student. In our quest for greatness academically and professionally, let’s remember to serve and to act for others, even if it feels difficult or avoidable.

Jessica Rich, a sophomore majoring in human services and social justice, is an opinions writer.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet