September 13, 2010
When senior Ashish Kumbhat woke up this morning, he never expected that he’d spend part of this afternoon talking to First Lady Michelle Obama. Or that she would get paint on him and sign his fraternity shirt.
Michelle Obama joined 150 GW students at Vinson Hall Retirement Community, one of 14 sites where members of the GW community volunteered for GW’s second annual Freshman Day of Service. Mrs. Obama painted a loading dock, working with GW students and Provost Steven Lerman.
“She was genuine,” said Mr. Kumbhat, president of the leadership and service-based fraternity Sigma Chi. “She said she was happy about GW doing community service year after year.”
More than 1,900 GW students served around the city and region in all eight District wards, Maryland and Virginia, including projects with the Anacostia Watershed Society, Rock Creek Park and Capital Area Foodbank.
Animal Planet host and conservationist Jeff Corwin kicked off the day of service with a passionate speech in the Charles E. Smith Center about the importance of sustainability and conservation. Mr. Corwin shared stories of people who are working around the world to help save the planet and said their actions, as well as the service of GW students, show “the power of one.”
Mr. Corwin told the audience members that by serving today, they could have a “profound” impact.
“You all possess incredible powers as individuals,” said Mr. Corwin. “What you’re going to do will not only enrich your lives but will also empower you and show you what you can do as an individual.”
The opening ceremony also included remarks by President Steven Knapp, Associate Vice President and Dean of Freshmen Helen Cannaday Saulny and Student Association Executive Vice President Rob Maxim.
Noting that the GW community completed more than 163,980 hours of service last year, Dr. Knapp told participants that service is an integral part of student life at GW.
“Freshman Day of Service is a chance to get our hands dirty together as we really go out in our community and participate in this city and region in such a concrete way,” said Dr. Knapp. “I think it’s a terrific introduction to your experience as new students at George Washington University.”
Following the ceremony, students departed to different service sites.
Dr. Knapp and Diane Knapp worked with students to clean up areas along the water in Rock Creek Park and to sort food at the Capital Area Food Bank.
The students who served at Anacostia Watershed Society had the opportunity to volunteer alongside George Hawkins, director of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, and Walter James, mayor of Bladensburg, Md.
Freshman and New York native Hannah Bower said she chose to serve with the Anacostia Watershed Society because, as a District resident, she wanted to help keep her new home clean.
“By volunteering our time and giving back to our community, we can hopefully start a ripple effect,” she says.
“Hopefully the day introduced the incoming class to all of the service opportunities that GW can present and encouraged everyone to continue getting involved with volunteerism throughout their GW career,” said Student Association President Jason Lifton, who volunteered alongside GW veterans at Vinson Hall.
One GW veteran, who served at Vinson, was senior Rebecca Groom, vice president of GW Veterans. “We were excited to see Michelle Obama and to meet her,” said Ms. Groom, “and to see that she’s willing to give up some of her time to show her appreciation.”
“Seeing how many students gave their day to volunteer was inspirational,” said Freshmen Service Coordinator Shannon Donahue. “I am excited to see the impact that the class of 2014 will make over the next four years, both in D.C. and beyond.”
The day concluded with a barbeque and a 9/11 candlelight vigil in Kogan Plaza.