U-M students spend time serving the community

August 30, 2012
Jared Wadley,
Laurel Thomas Gnagey, (734) 647-1841, ltgnagey@umich.edu or Jared Wadley, (734) 936-7819, jwadley@umich.edu

Before heading to their first classes of the fall term, U-M students from two schools spent part of an August day gaining hands-on experience with non-profit organizations in areas that will become part of their careers.

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Students and faculty from the School of Social Work and the School of Public Health participated in community service activities throughout Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities.

The School of Social Work sent 160 students to 10 human service agencies and non-profits in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit Aug. 28. They met other incoming students, worked with field agencies that host MSW student as interns, and became more familiar with the communities surrounding the U-M campus.

One student, Amy Song, volunteered at Community Action Network’s Bryant Community Center in Ann Arbor.

“I think it’s really great that the School of Social Work students are starting their year off putting into practice what we’re about. And it’s been great making new friends through Community Service Day.”

But the students weren’t the only ones who enjoyed themselves.

“Every year we look forward to the U of M Social Work students volunteering (and) the students are always willing to do any task with a smile on their face,” said Chelsea Brown, an employee for SOS Community Services in Ypsilanti.

The School of Public Health held its annual Practice Plunge, which allowed students to visit five Michigan counties Aug. 29. Organizers say the day of service is a way for students to receive an introduction to the communities in which they will engage in public health activities throughout their U-M careers.

In addition to rolling up their sleeves in service to a community-based organization, SPH students met with local leaders and learned about public health programs in the area and problems facing the region.

“It is important for us to be connected in the community,” said Cydni Smith, Health Management and Policy major, Pinckney. “If we’re going to be involved in community health issues, we should be comfortable with the resources. The Practice Plunge is a down and dirty way to get introduced to the community in one day.”

Andrew Maynard, interim chair and professor of Environmental Health Sciences, director, Risk Science Center, Charles and Rita Gelman Risk Science Professor, agreed.

“The Practice Plunge gives a real flavor of how you apply public health training,” said Maynard, who participated in the event for the first time. “Otherwise, there’s a danger of it being just a textbook experience. If you’re going into public health, it’s good to build on that ethos of what you are going to be doing in the community.”