Photos by Terra Atwood
Pepperdine students, faculty, and families arrived early Saturday morning, September 10th for the 28th annual Step Forward Day. The Pepperdine Community participated in one of its oldest service events, giving back to the people in the Los Angeles, Ventura, and Malibu area.
“Giving back to the community really does make you feel good; it makes your heart happy,” freshman Alondra Hernandez said. “Giving makes you feel like you’re living.”
The day of community service has been a Pepperdine tradition, upholding the University’s mission of service. In George Pepperdine’s book “Faith Is My Fortune,” he shared his two-fold vision for the University. Pepperdine hoped students would not only envision a successful career, but also the development of spiritual nature and service to other people.
Senior Milini Rambukwella attended her fourth Step Forward Day, having gone to a different place every year with the same first year seminar, Living Life with a Purpose. “If you come to Step Forward Day, you’ll see hundreds of people. I don’t know if you get this at other schools except for like a sports event, but we all come together to serve,” Rambukwella said.
Pepperdine Volunteer Center employees arrived in front of Smother’s Theater at 4:30 a.m, according to junior Jacob Johnston, to begin preparing for the big day. Students were greeted by ecstatic Volunteer Center members as they approached the balloon arch.
“There’s a lot of coffee to get pumped. We don’t have this energy out of nowhere,” PVC employee Angelina Diaz said. Diaz stood under the balloon arch greeting students as they arrived.
PVC employee Brandon Ruiz shared PVC’s goal to inspire students to begin volunteering more frequently through Step Forward Day. The PVC coordinates volunteer opportunities for students by partnering with non-profit and other organizations that work in the Los Angeles, Ventura, and Malibu area.
“I’m noticing more and more people since last year. There are bigger groups as opposed to last year when there was more groups of three to four people walking in together,” Ruiz said. Ruiz was also a greeter at Step Forward Day, welcoming everyone who arrived.
Step Forward Day allows students to choose how they would like to serve the community. Pepperdine offers their students the chance to learn new concepts and get different perspectives by stepping out of their comfort zone.
Freshman Cameron Varela visited the Veteran’s Home of West Los Angeles with his first year seminar, Living Life with a Purpose. The class split up into groups, joining the veterans in bingo, physical workouts, or their morning walk. Varela joined veterans in their physical workouts, where he got to talk to and get to know some of them.
“I wanted us to do a labor thing instead because I’m more comfortable with that than talking to old people. But I met a guy named Jamal and he told me a bunch of stories, sometimes more than once,” freshman Cameron Varela said. “When I was listening to him talk about he was 18, it was interesting how it wasn’t very different than how I feel right now.”
After taking buses back to campus, crowds raced to the In-n-Out trucks parked on Alumni Park. This year, Step Forward Day had its own Snapchat Geotag filter and PVC set up a volunteer fair so students could explore different ways to serve.
“One thing that we’re doing different as the volunteer center is we’re having a volunteer fair at Alumni Park after the service events to promote more volunteer opportunities for those who feel compelled to volunteer more often,” Ruiz said.
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