PUBLISHED: 4:21 PM on Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Students serve community with UAS volunteer program
It's always a good feeling to contribute to the community, and the University of Alaska has opened the opportunity to students. The new program, "Saturday of Service," gives students the ability to work with a UAS staff member and their chosen community service work.

The program began this September, and each event takes place one Saturday a month, with a half-day of service volunteered.

The program originated from Tish Griffin Satre of Student Activities and Housing. Her focus was to get involved in the community through the UAS staff's connection to students.

Staff were asked to volunteer on a Saturday and they were to create and connect with an organization in the community that needed volunteers to accomplish a task. The program is completely volunteer-based.

Recently, six students volunteered their time at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center to celebrate the Tongass National Forest's 100th birthday on Oct. 13. Marsha Squires, coordinator of academic exchanges, whose background and interest falls on outdoor projects, chose the event. Squires, who oversees the National Student Exchange and International Student Exchange programs, received positive interest and collaboration from students.

"I have students that are coming in, and it was a great opportunity for me to introduce them to the Juneau community as well as community service," she said.

"I felt it would be a great opportunity to celebrate the Tongass and because my NSE students are so enthralled with the beauty of the glacier; it was an easy 'in' for that situation."

Squires phoned Laurie Craig at the Visitor Center, and plans were made.

"We had a blast; we helped Craig at the Visitor's Center and cleared out the ramp up to the Center and all the brush hanging over the trails. We did some pruning and cleaning, and we cleared out a drainage section. It took us about three to four hours to do this," she said.

An exciting experience for volunteer Dave Pete, exchange student from Oregon, was seeing a sow and cubs trudging by about 15 feet away, while he was dumping brush.

"His eyes were so big and he said, 'that bear walked right by me!'" Squires said. "Some man made a comment who saw us, 'way to go; UAS is out in the community!' I love to see that, so it was a really positive statement for us," Squires said.

She said the Forest Service already contacted her and wants to have them volunteer again.

"There might be an opportunity to do some work and be a part of the community. They're young college students with strong backs," she said.

Another community project possibly in the works is digging plants at Perseverance trail out for the winter and saving the roots and plants during the redirection of trail blasting.

"Then we will come back in the spring and plant those. My thought is next spring we can tap in, get some students and follow up with Saturday programs," she said.

While the program is beneficial-it's difficult to encourage student volunteers due to weather, timing and study time. Squires hopes students will continue to show interest and see at least six to 12 students volunteering, depending on projects.

"It's just a matter of getting the word out, talking to students, and letting them know how they can get involved in the community," Squires said.

The majority of students involved currently are NSE students at UAS, here for a semester or academic year and experiencing what the community has to offer, she said.

"It gets their names and faces out there to make those career contacts if they want to make career contacts if," she said. "I think the goal behind it was to realize higher education goes beyond being in the classroom and it is being a part of the community and learning leadership skills."

For more information on Saturdays of Service, contact Satre, of Student Activities and Housing at 796-6529.