Rutgers will give back to the community this Saturday for Scarlet Day of Service
This Saturday, the Scarlet Day of Service will provide an opportunity for students to benefit themselves as well as the local community they live in.
The Scarlet Day of Service is one of the largest service events of the year at the University and it is planned by the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA) and the Rutgers University Division of Student Affairs. On this day, students come together as part of the State University of New Jersey to volunteer at different community organizations throughout central New Jersey, according to RUPA's website.
Stephany Mensah-Narh, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, is the director of outreach for RUPA and has been in the organization for three years.
Mensah-Narh said that Rutgers organizations, as well as local New Jersey organizations, normally participate in Scarlet Day of Service. RUPA's promotion has helped the event gain traction and popularity over the last few years.
“We know that students are busy and have other things going and it would be difficult to give back. So it is just one day that students can come out and commit to something and really feel better about themselves,” she said.
Mensah-Narh said that this event is essentially a leadership opportunity and a way for students to meet new people. In the past few years of the Scarlet Day of Service, students have involved themselves in New Brunswick cleanup and local libraries as well as various food pantries.
New sites for this year include Mercer County Parks, Waterloo Village historic sites and the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, she said.
“We have site leaders and staff that goes with (the students). The site leaders are often people who have engaged in community service or have done Alternative Breaks," Mensah-Narh said. “It’s one Saturday throughout the whole semester in which they can wake up and do something great and positively impact their community. Sometimes, we can forget to give back, especially because we’re so busy. It’s kind of like thinking the ways indirectly someone might’ve helped you."
Shannon Sy, a school of Arts and Sciences senior, has been involved in the Scarlet Day of Service for the last three years and has been a site leader since her sophomore year.
“As a site leader, you are pretty much in charge of 15-20 students, depending on the community partner you are working with. All you really need is your positive attitude,” Sy said.
Sy said that site leaders have the responsibility to make sure everyone who signed up is present and has emergency contact information for all the participants.
“Besides that, site leaders also do a reflection activity at the end of the day, which I think is the most important part of Scarlet Day of Service,” Sy said.
She said the reflection is the debrief at the end of the day to talk about what happened, how to implement what students learned in everyday life and to help close the divide between Rutgers students and the local community.
“It’s a leadership opportunity for myself. It’s a way to improve my public speaking skills and my facilitation skills. It’s also a stepping stone to other student leadership positions that you’d want to have on campus or after college,” Sy said.
Sy said that she also loves seeing a group of people coming together, even if they don’t know each other. At the end of the day, they are all doing something for a single cause.
When asked about student turnout, Sy said that the organization had over 1,000 students come for the fall Scarlet Day of Service, and almost as many during the spring Scarlet Day of Service.
She said there are both direct, indirect and direct opportunities for volunteering on Scarlet Day of Service. One year they volunteered at a nursing home and interacted with senior citizens and aided them in moving as well as playing Bingo.
Last year, Sy said they indirectly helped the community by painting the walls of a local food pantry at St. James Church.
“At the end of the day, you are doing something for someone else and giving back to the community," Sy said. "I think it shouldn’t matter whether (volunteering) is direct or indirect, as long as you are thinking about the end goal.”
Samil Tabani is a Rutgers Business School sophomore. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.