Photo by Anaka Osborne
Pepperdine is known for its small class sizes, breathtaking ocean views and challenging academics. Adding onto these, the university is being recognized for a student body focused on giving back.
The Princeton Review recently released their list of colleges having the most students engaged in community service and placed Pepperdine at No. 10.
The rest of the top ten positions, going from first to ninth, went respectively to: Brandeis University, Loyola University Maryland, Boston College, Creighton University, Tulane University, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Loyola Marymount University, Pitzer College and the College of William and Mary.
Pepperdine’s various opportunities for community service range from athletics to Greek life and anything in between. Senior Anaka Osborne, the co-president of Pepperdine’s Black Student Association who also worked as a tutor for LA County Juvenile Probation said she believes the Pepperdine Volunteer Center has made it easy for students to become involved with helping the community.
“The Pepperdine Volunteer Center is an amazing department on campus which has created strong and meaningful relationships with organizations and missions around the LA community, the nation and even globally through opportunities such as Project Serve,” Osborne wrote in an email. “I appreciate how they have organized their intentional outreach through environmental and educational opportunities, homelessness and other various social justice awareness programs, so that Pepperdine students can easily find their niche and passion for service.”
The PVC, which has been around for more than 25 years, is strong evidence of Pepperdine’s extensive background and experience with developing communities. The PVC’s website informs visitors of weekly services they can perform based on their desired category. The categories range from from health and wellness to hunger and homelessness.
Step Forward Day, one of the United States’ oldest service events, is a day designated for splitting students into groups in order to provide community services, such as cleanups and volunteering with less fortunate children.
Project Serve, which was initiated in 1996, is another experience available to Pepperdine students. During their spring break, students have the opportunity to travel both domestically and internationally to assist in fighting offenses such as poverty and social injustice.
Through JumpStart is a program through which Pepperdine students are able to get matched up with children needing tutoring, in an effort to prepare them to start their formal education. According to the PVC’s website, Pepperdine holds one of the biggest JumpStart Corps in America, with almost 100 students available as tutors. Each of these tutors commits to serving at least 300 hours per year.
The philanthropies supported by Pepperdine’s sororities and fraternities are another point of community work active throughout the year. According to Annie Shao, Delta Gamma’s director of finance, they used their fundraising event, Anchor Splash, to raise more than $14,000 for Service for Sight, a philanthropy dedicated to preventing blindness and providing care for those with visual impairments. Sigma Chi’s fundraising event, Derby Days, raised more than $50,000 for the City of Hope foundation, according to their Twitter page. The City of Hope is a nonprofit research center dedicated to the treatment and prevention of cancer.
According to junior volleyball player James Gehrels, there are even community service options that have come to students directly through Pepperdine’s student-athlete advisory committee. Read to a Wave is an opportunity for college students to visit Juan Cabrillo Elementary School to read and play with the elementary students.
Senior Kat Bright, president of the Delta Gamma sorority, wrote that she believes the consistency seen among the students’ willingness to give back may be directly attributed to the type of students that Pepperdine attracts.
“Pepperdine is a Christian university,” Bright wrote in an email. “It embodies many characteristics of the Christian faith, the core of which is service to others. Pepperdine has an established giving culture, and it appears to be cyclical, constantly building and improving upon itself. I can only see it going up from here.”
Bright wrote that she also believes that community service brings people out of the concept of “self,” and into a connected understanding with the community.
“They say our 20s are our most self-focused years,” Bright wrote. “And in many ways, this is a good thing. Community service provides perspective for us, however, and reminds us to engage in something bigger than ourselves, breaking us out of our constant rush of activities revolving around the self.”
Junior David Limon, who is involved in theater, Songfest, Dance in Flight and New Student Orientation, has also found personal growth through involvement with Pepperdine’s community service opportunities.
“Serving selflessly oftentimes has an internal power of healing and forgiveness paired with understanding,” Limon wrote in an email. “This has helped me increase my perceived amount of self-worth and my respect for others.”
David attributes part of his inclination toward service to the push he’s felt from Pepperdine to be more involved, even a push as direct as being a requirement for a specific class.
“Pepperdine has many opportunities to get involved in community service,” Limon wrote. “Sometimes, classes at Pepperdine require community service, such as the psychopharmacology class. That provides the initial push needed to take part in these awesome experiences.”
Pepperdine’s Student Government Association’s executive vice president David Hylton has been able to work in his areas of passion, much of which is made possible by Pepperdine.
“With my involvement in the Social Action and Justice Colloquium, I have especially learned that the most rewarding experiences are ones when you serve a community you are passionate about or can relate to,” Hylton wrote in an email. “For me, those are the most humbling experiences and are the ones that have a long-term affect on my day to day life.”