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First-Year Students Give Back on Service Day

orientation / pittsburgh

David Park's appetite for helping others led him to a newfound talent — making Rice Krispie treats. 

Park, a first-year student at Carnegie Mellon University, discovered his sweet culinary skill during Orientation's Service Day, when he and more than 260 of his classmates fanned out across Pittsburgh to volunteer at 21 community service organizations. Park and about a dozen students baked chocolate chip cookies, brownies and Rice Krispie treats at Family House in Oakland, a home-away-from-home for patients and families seeking medical treatment at Pittsburgh-area hospitals.

"Community is one of the most important things in someone's life," said Park of Philadelphia, who plans to major in psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "Being able to help people without expecting anything back is something I have a passion for."

Fellow student baker Mehal Kashyap, a first-year student in the School of Computer Science from Edison, New Jersey, said lending a hand has always made her feel good. 

"Volunteering and giving back to the community is something that's always made me feel warm inside, almost like a brownie," she said. 

At the EastField Cooperative Garden in Garfield, students helped with various gardening tasks, such as weeding and turning the soil in growing beds. The 20-family garden, run by Carnegie Mellon architecture alumnus Gary Cirrincione, helps feed families in need. Crops include raspberries, apples, peaches, almonds, hazelnuts, blueberries, tomatoes, onions and East Asian beans. 

"I'm really happy I'm here," said Alexia Friedman, a first-year student in the School of Computer Science from Redmond, Washington. "I wanted to have the experience of going off-campus into the Pittsburgh community and doing something to help out. I really like getting involved in the community around me and helping to make other people's lives a little better."

James Garrett and Mason Xiao volunteer at the EastField Cooperative Garden in Garfield.

Mason Xiao of Ottawa, Canada, said he felt compelled to volunteer. 

"I'm fortunate to attend a school like Carnegie Mellon, and it's my duty to give back," said Xiao, a student in the College of Engineering. 

The student gardeners were joined by Provost James H. Garrett, Jr., who said he values community service and spending time with alumni and students.

"This is work that students and I can do to be helpful and make an impact," Garrett said. "Anytime you can get alumni and students working together, magic happens. Being an alumnus and faculty member, any chance I can get to spend time with our students is a joy."

Garrett, a three-time Carnegie Mellon alumnus, said as dean of the College of Engineering he didn't get the chance to spend enough time with students. He plans to change that as provost.

"You can sometimes lose sight of why we're here, and spending time with students is a quick reminder that these great students are the reason why," Garrett said.

Miranda Mlincek, a fifth-year scholar and community adviser this year, returned to the garden for her second time as the students' site leader. She said community service has allowed her to learn new perspectives. 

"Giving back to others is like paying your rent here on earth," Mlincek said, quoting a friend. "I truly believe in that. It's always been a part of my life."

In addition to Family House and the EastField Cooperative Garden, students volunteered at other sites, including the Arsenal Family & Children's CenterSojourner HouseAnimal FriendsManorcare Shadyside, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Ronald McDonald House

Orientation's Service Day is part of the university's commitment to community service. CMU hosts 1,000plus each spring, an event that aims to engage more than 1,000 campus volunteers in community service activities. 

Carnegie Mellon's Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach hosts on-campus and community-based activities that improve educational opportunities for youth, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each year, more than 50 students serve as instructors in outreach classes for K-9 students, tutors who travel to nearby schools and community organizations, and STEM ambassadors who conduct demonstrations at school events or places like the Carnegie Science Center.