Photo courtesy of Pepperdine Volunteer Center
George Pepperdine imagined an immense body of alumni “who would feel the moral imperative to serve others sacrificially,” according to Pepperdine’s website. Even in the Caf, “Freely ye received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8) is found on the wall where students pass by with their plates of food. Service plays a large part in Pepperdine’s culture, as seen by the popularity of service opportunities for students, staff and alumni such as Step Forward Day and Project Serve.
Pepperdine’s youth health and wellness program is about aiding students to serve, which is part of the university’s mission statement, said junior Samantha Shipley, the youth health and wellness coordinator for the Pepperdine Volunteer Center. The program coordinates with Hand in Hand and the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu. This semester, eight student volunteers work with The Boys & Girls Club and three student volunteers work with Hand in Hand, Shipley said. There are also about 10 students who work with Hand in Hand who do not go through the PVC.
“For me, it’s about seeking out change for the youth in the Malibu community through Pepperdine students … because it’s part of our mission statement — to serve,” Shipley said.
Hand in Hand works with youth who have special needs. The volunteers participate in activities such as cooking, arts and crafts, dance, and field trips, Shipley said. The Boys & Girls club is an after-school program that helps elementary, middle school and high school students. It includes tutoring them in a variety of subjects and just spending time with them. They also participate in activities to engage them within the community.
Lisa Szilagyi, one of the co-founders and co-directors for Hand in Hand, said that there weren’t a lot of opportunities for kids with disabilities to hang out and have fun since they spend a lot of time with therapists and in classrooms. Hand in Hand’s mission is to provide a social, inclusive and interactive environment where teens with and without disabilities can hang out.
There are about 40 volunteers on any given Thursday to help out for the hour and a half, Szilagyi said. Volunteers include students from Pepperdine, UCLA and Malibu High School.
“[Pepperdine] volunteers have been wonderful. They are exceptional in interacting with those with disabilities,” Szilagyi said. “The kids look up to them and the energy and enthusiasm is tremendous.”
Shipley said she has a passion for helping people, and the PVC was something that she found was able to help her do that on a daily basis. She has participated in Step Forward Day, as well as Missions on Skid Row, which sends volunteers to the Union Rescue Mission and the Midnight Mission to serve meals and participate in beach cleanups. She wants to work at a nonprofit organization and said she thinks it is a good way for her to get exposure to different ways she can help out the community and also what she wants to pursue as a career once she graduates.
As a parent and a special education teacher, Szilagyi said she thinks it is incredible when volunteers tell her that they have decided they want to pursue a career working with people who have special needs.
Szilagyi, who herself has a 26-year-old daughter with special needs, said the most rewarding part of her job is seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces. A lot of the kids in the program were in her classroom when she was a life skills teacher at Malibu High School for 16 years. She said that parents have told her that their children always talked about Hand in Hand during the summer and were excited about when it was going to start.
“They enjoy it so much, and it is rewarding that they love it so much and that they look forward to it,” Szilagyi said. “I get to see my daughter and other kids and how happy they are at the program. It’s the highlight of their week.”
To volunteer for Hand in Hand or Boys & Girls Club, email Samantha Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the PVC website at pepperdine.edu/volunteercenter for more information.
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