by Peter Thompson
Director, Pepperdine Volunteer Center
The Pepperdine Volunteer Center (PVC) stands as a testament to the success of student leadership from its origins over 25 years ago through the current model of community-engaged learning. Students live out the twofold mission of (1) challenging this campus to engage and think critically with the community and (2) creating sustainable partnerships with organizations that are making positive impacts in the community.
Twenty-five years ago students asked the administration of Pepperdine University
to provide a place for service on campus. After researching models of university centers the PVC was formed with four student leaders. The first event was Step Forward Day, which began humbly as leaders knocked on doors in the housing community to get more volunteers because few had showed up to participate. Today, Step Forward Day is a campus tradition. The 25th Anniversary included 1,454 Pepperdine students, faculty, and staff serving over 4,360 hours in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Additionally, 472 Pepperdine alumni served on the same day connecting Waves across the globe.
Student leadership has blossomed from four students the first year to 40 student leaders engaging 65 percent of the campus for a combined 63,462 hours of service.
The PVC strives to walk alongside students as they discover their passions and develop a deep understanding of God’s call for justice. This happens by serving weekly in a juvenile probationary camp in Malibu or serving a week building water filters in Guatemala over spring break. We recognize that the community is a coeducator of the Pepperdine experience and students gain real-world knowledge and experience through service. The PVC balances between the curricular and the cocurricular by enhancing the scholarship of community engagement. Last year the PVC supported 58 academic service-learning courses from first-year seminars to capstone courses in business administration and communications.
The PVC continues partnerships that it began 25 years ago, with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu. Students have other opportunities each week to tutor homeless children through School on Wheels and gather fruits and vegetables for FOOD Share in Ventura County. The largest program, Jumpstart, places over 100 students in preschools in low-income communities throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties to develop literacy skills. Students are able to use their spring break to serve throughout the world through Project Serve. These partners are sustainable, year-round organizations with deep roots in the communities we are serving.
LEGACY OF SERVICE
The PVC actively pursues George Pepperdine’s vision. The core commitments of (1) knowledge and scholarship, (2) faith and heritage, and (3) community and global understanding can begin with a first-year seminar on Step Forward Day and be deepened in Central America on Project Serve. The institutional values of purpose, service, and leadership are put into practice in a preschool classroom with Jumpstart and in the college classroom through academic service-learning courses. Ultimately, alumni take with them both a first-class education and a life informed by service into their new communities.