4/22/2018 0 Comments
By Helena Li
I started participating in the University of California’s Day of Service about five years ago, in which each UC holds a series of service projects on a designated day in communities across the globe in which their alumni work and reside. This year happened to be my first Day of Service in San Francisco, and being involved with my alma mater UCSD as a regional leader, I wanted nothing more than to dedicate our volunteer project to Five Keys.
It all started with…A lunch chat with Mario during one of our PD days, during which I pitched him the idea of my alumni group doing a service project for Five Keys. What we would do, I had no idea, but I was hoping he would. And boy, was I right!
We decided on…An outreach initiative that would focus on re-engaging students who had recently unenrolled, as well as helping teachers with tasks they probably did not have time for. These two ideas materialized in the form of sending out handwritten postcards and making digital flyers for teachers - these are obviously two tasks teachers would all love to do, but realistically, where would the time and resources come from? Enter UCSD Alumni!
So we started preparing…I had a series of meetings with Mario to create a game plan - the who, the how, the where, the what. He was kind enough to offer to feed our volunteers lunch (Chinese food!) and coffee (how else could we get started?). He figured out how to run the reports for the data we needed, which we settled on being a list of students from this school year who had been active but were no longer enrolled. After compiling a spreadsheet of 1000 names, I filtered out the duplicates, addresses that were Five Keys sites, no addresses, etc, and ended up with about 700 names. I was a little nervous - I didn’t know how many volunteers would show and whether UCSD had liability insurance for alumni who injured their hands writing hundreds of postcards in this digital age of emails and texting (spoiler: everything worked out).
I went to Office Max and bought out their whole stock of printable postcards and Jenn Mendoza graciously helped me print them in our little printer at Oakdale (700 of them!) and also all the student address and return labels (1400 of them!). Mario and I sent out many, many emails - sorry - to the staff letting everyone know about the event and to submit their requests for flyers. At first there were very few flyer requests and I was a little disheartened that the impact for the teachers wouldn’t be as big as I’d hoped, but with Mario’s encouragement and dedication to reaching out to teachers, we ended up with a solid number of requests! Now my new worry was whether we’d finish them all. Can never win.
And the best part - the day of the project! Six volunteers showed up on Sunday, March 11 from 10am-3pm at Oakdale and finished all the tasks we had on our to-do list, and most importantly, ate all the Chinese food. Four people wrote postcards (175 cards each!) and two people worked on the flyers (all 19 flyers completed!). I was very impressed by and proud of our small but mighty group and they immensely enjoyed learning about Five Keys and our impact in the community.
My parting thoughts…I would love to do this again! I hope Five Keys empowers teachers and staff to take ownership of projects that will benefit our students and increase our staff’s own sense of fulfillment. I’ve already received an email from a teacher that a student came back because he received a postcard - my heart feels like it’s filled with warm chicken soup. Thank you for welcoming my UCSD Alumni group in to Five Keys to do something meaningful for our community; I know that it meant a lot to them, and especially me.
If you have students who are returning because of the postcards, I would be so grateful and happy to know about it - please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org