On Jan. 21, the Association of Yale Alumni announced that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor LAW ’79 will serve as the honorary chair of the 2015 Yale Day of Service, to be held on May 9.
Now in its seventh year, the Yale Day of Service is a volunteer initiative that engages members of the Yale community around the world, Assistant Director for Alumni Relations Alisa Masterson said. She added that last year’s event included over 250 volunteer sites in 42 states and 20 foreign countries, with a record-high 4,000 participants. Volunteer opportunities range from environmental efforts, such as park clean-ups, to projects targeted at high school students, such as career and college essay writing panels, Masterson said.
“We expect to once again have [volunteer] sites all over the world,” she said. “We do tend to have clusters of sites in the major Yale cities — New Haven, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, L.A., Washington, D.C. and Boston — though we have sites in many other places with many fewer alumni, such as Shenzhen, China.”
Lise Chapman ’81, chair of the 2014 Yale Day of Service, said last year’s increase in participants can partly be attributed to the four honorary chairs: former Presidents George H.W. Bush ’48, George W. Bush ’68 and Bill Clinton LAW ’73, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton LAW ’73. Chapman said in order to reach out to more members of the Yale community and show them the value of service, members of the AYA approached the honorary chairs and asked for their involvement. Their inclusion prompted an increase of 500 participants over the number from the previous year, she added.
This year, the committee asked Sotomayor to serve as honorary chair, Chapman said. She added that the role of honorary chair is meant to inspire others to action.
“I am delighted and honored to announce that Justice Sotomayor, one of Yale’s most distinguished graduates, has agreed to serve as the honorary chair of the 2015 Yale Day of Service,” University President Peter Salovey said in an email that went out to Yale alumni last week. “Her lifelong commitment to public service is truly an inspiration to all of us, as it is to countless others in our country and overseas.”
In addition to alumni, students, faculty, staff, families and friends are also encouraged to participate, Masterson said. She added that members of the incoming freshman class are welcomed to join, allowing them to become part of their local Yale community before they even enroll. Students can both volunteer and coordinate their own volunteer projects, Masterson said.
However, this year’s event will take place on May 9, two days after residences close. Students interviewed said this date is not the most convenient, which may deter them from volunteering this year.
Rachel Paris ’17, a former participant in the Yale Day of Service, said she would probably not be able to engage in this year’s events due to scheduling difficulties.
“I’ve participated in the program before and I know it’s a great cause,” Paris said. “But May 9 is not an ideal date for students.”
But AYA Director of Strategic Initiatives Stephen Blum ’74 said that although the Day of Service is officially celebrated on the second Saturday of May each year, any volunteer opportunity can be scheduled for virtually any date in the months before and after the Day of Service. Many service projects are beginning as early as April, Blum said, and others will take place as late as June. He added that this wide range of dates provides an opportunity for the student body to participate in community service projects.
Chapman said the Yale Day of Service has become so popular that nonprofit organizations and social service agencies have begun reaching out to the AYA and asking for alumni volunteers to help with their specific projects.
“It’s no longer just alumni driven, but driven by non-profits and agencies who need help,” Chapman said. “And alumni and students are getting together and coming up with brand new ideas to start entirely new projects. It’s a great leadership opportunity, and it leads to people working together both with Yale, and on behalf of Yale.”
The AYA is currently accepting service site submissions online, and volunteer registration will open in mid-March.