N.J. Governor Honors Rutgers Student Volunteers

This story was written by Yana Erler, Daily Targum
Gov. Jon S. Corzine reiterated Dr. Martin Luther King's words, "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve," as he congratulated a room filled with accomplished Rutgers University student volunteers at the Serve Conference Friday.

Held on the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination, the conference, which took place 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cook Campus Center, was intended to honor his legacy of service and civic duty, as well as, promote and showcase community service on college and university campuses throughout New Jersey.

"It is important to celebrate the contributions to our state and to develop the habit of commitment and joy of service," Corzine said. "This is the foundation for a lifetime commitment to service."

The opening session also included addresses by President Richard L. McCormick, Secretary of State Nina Wells and Director of Commission on Higher Education Jane Oats.

Oats excitedly spoke about the planning of the event, which had been in the making for the past two years and took full force last fall.

"I promise you, this is only the first of an annual celebration," Oats said.

She credited Corzine for his complete support, and urged students and administrators to begin networking.

Wells took a strong stand on voting -- advocating students' civic duty to register and vote on the upcoming elections .

The Star-Ledger's Carly Rothman also took the stage in an effort to recruit students to blog about their experiences and accomplishments in public service.

"Television does not cover enough of what community service achieves," she said.

The blog, called Helping Hands, serves as a portal for all non-profit organizations to get in contact with one another and for people in general to learn more about what types of community service interests them, and what is available in their community, said Rothman.

Numerous volunteer organizations, such as New Jersey Public Interest Research Group Water Watch, The College of New Jersey's Bonner Leaders Program, City Year Greater Philadelphia and Teach for America, participated in the daylong event representing 25 of New Jersey's colleges and universities.

Rowena Madden, event coordinator and director of New Jersey's Commission on Community Service, said the conference organizers looked to encourage volunteering groups from different schools and campuses to work together.

"By getting these organizations from different colleges to work together, we can do so much more," said Madden.

The event started off with presentations from NJPIRG Water Watch on river clean ups and TCNJ students' trip to New Orleans, La., where they helped rebuild homes and schools destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Members of organizations stood by their respective tables, and spoke about their experience, goals and achievements.

Douglass college sophomore Ashley Sawyer passionately discussed her involvement with Teach for America and the opportunities they offer to students in poor educational programs nationwide in challenging districts, such as Newark and Camden.

She said she hopes her organization will gain more support and momentum.

"We received 50 percent more applications this past year," Sawyer said. "This conference is really important to us in helping to get our name out there."

Workshops offering strategies on various topics such as disaster preparedness, voter registration, philanthropy on campus and time management became the main attraction following the opening session.

Rutgers University Student Assembly Chairman Jim Kline came out of the Recruiting Student Volunteering calling for more chairs.

Christopher Keating, a Rutgers College junior and member of Rutgers University Student Assembly, talkd about the excitement of learning about other volunteering organizations throughout the state.

"Anyone that comes here leaves with more ideas and a better understanding of how other students in New Jersey help out in their respective communities," Keating said.
© 2008 Daily Targum via U-WIRE