By Kate O’Dell, Opinion Editor
Spring break is time away from the obligations of school. For many students, it’s a vacation back home. For others it is a great chance to put in extra hours at work and get a good paycheck. Other students use it to get ahead on schoolwork as the semester end draws near. However, at UNO there’s a large group of students who spend their break volunteering to help others. This year marked the 10th anniversary of 7 Days of Service.
Last week, more than 1,500 students from UNO and local public schools went to work for 14 different non-profit organizations. Some of the non-profit organizations involved included Habitat for Humanity, Lauritzen Gardens, the Stephen Center and the Salvation Army. Twelve various building and renovation projects in the Omaha and Council Bluffs area were the focus of this spring break.
The week launched on March 17 and ran daily from March 19 to the 24. The days began at 8:30 a.m. when students checked in at the Milo Bail Student Center. Volunteers were then bussed from UNO’s campus to the work sites. The day ended at 3 p.m. when they were bussed back to campus. Volunteers could choose which days they worked and had the option of working all seven days or just one, whatever their schedule allowed. The flexibility is convenient for the students who want to be involved but, because of demanding work schedules, etc., can only offer their time on certain days. Students registered to volunteer on the university website.
“Seven Days of Service is a great way to expand your skills while helping out your community,” Kathe Oleson Lyons, director of UNO’s Office of Community Leadership and Service, said. “Volunteers help nonprofit organizations while learning more about their city.”
The program was started in 2003 when seven UNO students decided to spend their spring break repairingthe homes of low-income families. Since then, according to Oleson Lyons, thousands of students have been involved with the program. Oleson Lyons said that the students are of significant importance in keeping the week a successful operation. She said students are “intricately involved” as they directly help in organizing and managing the days. A trend Oleson Lyons is happy to see emerge is the active involvement the students have taken when finding new nonprofit clients to work for. Over the years students have been vying for the interests of new nonprofit organizations. This helps the program stay fresh and relevant and keeps students involved with organizations currently in need in the Omaha area. Professor David Ogden’s public relations students help with the program by providing the news releases and media plans.
Even more impressive than sheer numbers is the dedication of these volunteers.
“What I think I walk away from this particular year noting is that there is a growing group of committed volunteers,” Oleson Lyons said. “Whether it’s rain or shine, they were there this week, with no prompting.”