USF students will “stampede” on the historic communities of East Tampa and surrounding areas on Saturday, donating their time and energy to what may be one of the largest community service efforts of any Florida university.
According to Volunteer USF Coordinator Amy Simon, more than 1,000 students have pre-registered for USF’s “Stampede of Service,” during which students will be split into 20 different groups to paint, pick up trash and plant flowers and trees around the community.
“This is going to be the largest impact USF has had on the community,” Simon said.Volunteer USF and Student Government have coordinated the event as part of Martin Luther King Jr. week and USF’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Approximately $6,000 was budgeted to SG to fund the project, but after more than 500 students volunteered in November, SG’s budget expanded to about $13,000 in Activity & Service fees to pay for food, T-shirts and travel expenses.
According to the former Director of Community Outreach Michael Johnson, Papa John’s and Image Depot have offered discounts, putting the bill close to $10,000. Excess dollars will go back into interim funding for SG, Johnson said.
“The purpose of this event is to show that the student body really cares about the community,” student body President Maxon Victor said. “We’re here to help build Tampa and unify it as well.”
For years, East Tampa (bordered by Interstate 4 to the south, Interstate 275 to the west, 50th Street to the east and Hillsborough Avenue to the north) was plagued with poverty and criminal activity, but several faith-based initiatives, partnerships and city involvement in recent years have helped to steer the once neglected community back into an economic asset.
Participating students will meet outside MLK Plaza for breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by a rally speech from USF President Judy Genshaft. The USF cheerleaders and the Herd of Thunder marching band will also be on hand for the celebration.
Both SG and Volunteer USF would like to see this event become an annual tradition.
“The goal is to make it an annual thing,” Johnson said. “We really want students to see and understand how significant it is to help the community. It would be up to the next president and vice president to do it because it does require a large amount of student dollars.”
Students will file into buses and leave for various sites around 10 a.m. After the day’s work is through, they will head back to USF around 1:30 for pizza.
Students are encouraged to come to the celebration before buses leave if they want to get involved.