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Saturday service projects attract students to volunteer to help out local organizations

A group of fourteen students, all wearing shorts, T-shirts and red BYUH vests standing in front of a green, grey and yellow building.
BYUH students participating in a service activity.

Students participated in a "serve your community" event on the last Saturday in February 2022 to finish out the Ka Pule Kokua service week. Upon arriving on that Saturday morning, students checked in with their clubs and were then divided into groups to serve at multiple locations in the Ko’olauloa community.

One place where students volunteered was the garden beds at Kahuku Elementary School. Flori Padua-Jocson, a teacher there, said she was grateful for the help.

“They [BYU-Hawaii students] have done everything in two hours that would have taken me days, weeks," she said. Students pulled weeds, pruned vines, reinforced wooden planting boxes and built a shelf for the gardening equipment shed.

The garden beds are typically taken care of by the elementary school students, Padua-Jocson explained, but due to schedule difficulties caused by COVID, the garden had fallen into disrepair.

"I really appreciate … seeing everyone come out, taking time out of your Saturday. Some of these kids [at a nearby rugby game] are watching us and will come asking … questions in class on Monday. ‘Who were those kids that were helping in our garden?’” Padua-Jocson said. BYUH student volunteers as a good example for the children, she added.

Sydney Gwilliam, a senior business management major from Mapleton, Utah, is a Student Leadership & Service employee who works as the supervisor over the Service Center. She said she was centrally involved in planning the event.

“We started planning this in November,” she explained. There were only four Service Center employees plus a coordinator, but a volunteer Service Council helped with the extra work, she added.

Places to serve are chosen based on need and availability, Gwilliam said. “We try to find places that really need it,” she said. “We contact them.” Local places also partner with the Service Center and let them know when they need service done, she said.

Gwilliam said about 200 students were expected to show up at the project. "It's so awesome to see people come and be ready and willing to serve," said Gwilliam.

One student who came to serve was Nizhoni Sutter, a junior biology major from Washington state. Sutter is the vice president of activities in the Healthcare Professionals Club, which was assigned to go to Hauula, where they cleared debris to help prepare a lot for a community hub to be built in the future.

Several clubs were assigned to that lot. When they got there, they split into groups along club lines. Sutter said the Healthcare Professionals Club moved rocks out of the way while another club pulled weeds.

"It was really exciting to help out," she said. She added she decided to come to the service project to "lead by example."

“We had a nice turnout,” she explained. “What better way to spend your Saturday?”