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For Helen Paik, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the hungry at 9 a.m. on a Saturday was all part of her welcome to the University of San Francisco School of Law. Paik, 24, along with about 20 of her mostly first-year classmates, spent half their day as volunteers in the kitchen and dining room at San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church making lunches for the approximately 3,000 expected for meals. “It helps keep things in perspective,” she says. The volunteer effort at Glide was part of USF law school’s Law in Motion community service program. The project gives students the chance to meet each other, help out their community, and see the city beyond the confines of USF’s campus. Across town, another, smaller group of law students were busy planting trees in the Mission district with Friends of the Urban Forest. And by midday, another handful had helped bring 40 elderly citizens, mostly from the Tenderloin, to a potluck at Sisters of the Presentation House. In all, the effort made 28 law students into volunteers. “To me, it says students in this generation aren’t cynical. They do care,” says Jeffrey Brand, dean of USF School of Law. “Once you give them opportunities, they seize them like crazy.” Brand and then-student Marlena Gibbons came up with the program in the summer of 1999, while working in Indonesia as part of the school’s Center for Law and Global Justice. When the two returned, Brand told Jacqueline Ortega, assistant dean for student affairs, about the idea. Only days later, Ortega posted a flyer seeking volunteers to work in the St. Anthony Foundation’s dining room in the Tenderloin district. Within 48 hours, more than 100 students signed up for 10 slots. From there, Ortega began overseeing the program. In excess of 100 students volunteered throughout the school year for activities like reading to children at San Francisco General Hospital. In addition to helping fulfill the community service aspect of USF’s mission as a Jesuit university, Ortega says the program also attempts to instill in students the ethic of giving long past graduation. “We hope they care about it, that they’ll carry that spirit on as they go into their practice,” Ortega says. This year, plans are already underway to volunteer at the Marian Residence for Women, a transitional home in San Francisco, and to help out again at St. Anthony’s kitchen. For some students, the weekend effort marked the first time they’d ever volunteered. They said they’d simply never come across the opportunity before. “When I was in college I never volunteered for anything, and now I have this opportunity,” says first-year student Monica Batanero. She was one of about five students who visited with the elderly at a potluck put on by Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly. Says Batanero, “I’m glad I’m here.”
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