By Lisa Donchak
UC Santa Cruz isn’t exactly renowned for its community service program. Franklin Williams, Diversity Consultant and Community Resources Facilitator at UCSC, is trying to change that.
Williams, along with Bill Heinrich, is in charge of Oakes 77, a three-credit learning service course offered through Oakes College. The course, which allows UCSC students to volunteer at various sites around Santa Cruz, also connects minority students on campus with younger students. Williams calls it "collective community building."
According to Mike Rotkin, a member of the Santa Cruz City Council who has worked with the program, a main goal of the class is to improve the often-tenuous relationship between UCSC and the city of Santa Cruz. According to Rotkin, programs like Oakes 77, "have a very positive impact on the Santa Cruz Community."
According to a 2005 UCSC survey, about 29 percent of students volunteer, "contributing over 550,000 hours to the community." Fifty-four percent of UCSC faculty and staff volunteer locally, contributing over 270,000 hours annually.
On campus, the largest volunteering organization is the Student Volunteer Center (SVC), which is campus-wide and university funded.
According to SVC staff coordinator Kimberly Weber, the SVC is "like a career center for volunteers," whose goal is to "disperse kids to programs that need help in the community."
Five years ago, a class similar to the current Oakes 77 class enrolled 35 students per term. Since then, enrollment has dropped to as low as three students.
But Williams hopes to counter these trends by making community service a requirement for all undergraduates at UCSC.
Part of the purpose of Oakes 77 is to strengthen diversity at UCSC.
"We are not becoming the multicultural culture we represent," Williams said. Of the 15 students in the course, 13 are students of color.
Tom Bowles, a first-year student at Oakes, is taking the course this term. He is currently working on researching and organizing a one-on-one tutoring program for students at Renaissance High School in Watsonville.
"The minute I met these kids, I fell in love with them," Bowles said. "They are intelligent kids, they just don’t have the resources. If you educate someone and help them with what they need to know, they’ll discover what they want to know."
_There are a few spots still available in the Oakes 77. Contact Franklin Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information_