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CommUniversity Day spurs service

KRISTEN DURBIN | Friday, April 9, 2010

From painting houses and fire hydrants to working at the Center for the Homeless, over 700 students will participate in 35 different service projects benefiting the South Bend community for Saturday’s second annual CommUniversity Day.

A number of these projects are sponsored by student groups and campus offices, such as Circle K, GreeND, the Psychology Club and the Center for Social Concerns.

In addition to on- and off-campus projects, a children’s festival for all community families will take place on Irish Green, as well as hourly campus walking tours. The day of service will culminate with a community picnic at the Robinson Community Learning Center.

“This is an opportunity for everyone from Notre Dame and the surrounding community to get together to interact,” junior Rachel Roseberry, co-director of the event and outgoing Social Concerns chair, said.

The event was started last year by the Community Relations and Social Concerns committees of student government, and participation in the event is projected to be higher than last year’s total, Roseberry said.

“Students have been doing service in the community for a very long time,” senior Denise Baron, co-director of the event and outgoing Community Relations chair, said. “That mission of service really shines through in CommUniversity Day because students are doing service in the traditional sense, but they are also participating in civic involvement by working with public works.”

Baron also said the University has modified its commitment to serving the community by creating new positions in community relations and increasing funding of service projects. She said CommUniversity Day lends its success to the continual collaboration between students, Notre Dame staff and administrators, community leaders and city officials.

“The role of community relations in both student government and CommUniversity Day is to make sure we are the best possible neighbors to South Bend,” Baron said. “It really builds bridges and relationships through connections between people on and off campus.”
Roseberry also emphasized that CommUniversity Day is much more than just a day of service to the community.

“We want to work with the community to better the area together,” Roseberry said. “The dynamic of engagement with the community has changed, so we are always looking for creative ways to engage with the community.”

In addition to discovering new ways for Notre Dame to interact with the South Bend community, Baron said she believes CommUniversity Day allows participating students to learn something about themselves.

“The day recognizes the reciprocal nature of Notre Dame’s relationship with South Bend,” Baron said. “Our free labor and service directly help to improve the community, but they also help students understand service in a broader sense and their place in the world outside South Bend as well.”

Both Roseberry and Baron hope the event will expand and be improved in the future based on the needs of the community and the ideas of students.

“The model will be different every year depending on who is involved,” Baron said. “It’s an organic, self-defining project that is always changing.”