Expanding Our Definitions of Service and Community for the LSJ Month of Service

Submitted by Kat Eli on

By Katie Pattenaude, LSJ Student Communications Assistant

This year, the LSJ Day of Service looked a little different.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, the LSJ Department was unable to host its annual Day of Service event wherein students, alumni, staff, and faculty come together to give back to the community. Typically, this day involved volunteering at the Downtown Emergency Services Center, a prominent local non-profit organization that provides housing facilities for the homeless and other low-income populations. 

In response to these obstacles, the LSJ Department decided to transform the Day of Service into a Month of Service, showcasing the ways in which LSJ students and organizations were already giving back to their communities during the month of February. 

Pivoting to a virtual Month of Service meant getting creative. This is where the LSJ Student Advisory Council stepped in, challenging us to think more expansively about what service and community look like.

The first Month of Service effort that the Council spearheaded was a “Mutual Aid Bingo'' campaign. This three-week effort utilized social media to highlight various youth-led organizations around Seattle whose work is built upon mutual aid, social justice, and anti-racism. The campaign encouraged donations to the organizations UW Black Lives Matter, UW Mutual Aid, and Black Minds Matter.

The selection of these three groups was highly intentional. LSJ sophomore Jasmine Fernandez, the Council’s DEI Committee Representative, explains that the Council specifically wanted to showcase youth-led efforts within this campaign. 

“All of the organizations or collectives that we were raising funds for were primarily organized by youth,” Jasmine pointed out. 

In addition to supporting their fellow peers and efforts coordinated by other UW students, the Council wanted to broaden the idea of community to extend to folks on the other side of Seattle, as well as people who aren’t college students. 

“We wanted to highlight organizations that, again, were youth-run, but existed beyond the university,” Jasmine said. “Community is not exclusive to those who attend, work on, and study on the UW campus. It also includes youth of all ages and community members of all backgrounds.” 

The second effort that the Council spearheaded for the Month of Service was a “Student Advisory Council Small Business Picks” campaign. Each member of the Council shared their favorite local small businesses, compiling them into a graphic to promote on social media. 

Some notable picks included Estelita’s Library- Justice Focused Community Bookstore & Library, Scarecrow Video, and Dubsea Coffee.  

Jasmine noted that this effort was inspired by a similar thought process as Mutual Aid Bingo. Not only did they once again want to extend beyond the UW community to marginalized regions of Seattle, but also promote unique types of businesses, such as libraries. 

“We wanted to highlight a diversity of and various types of businesses, broadening our understanding of where community is situated. We need to recognize that [community] is not just in North Seattle, it’s not just on or near UW campus, it is all of Seattle, and it is beyond Seattle,” Jasmine said. 

Jasmine says that this year’s unprecedented Month of Service efforts have revealed an opportunity for the LSJ department to further expand their active showing of solidarity to students and organizations both inside and outside of the UW community. 

“I think it has shown the untapped potential of the LSJ Student Advisory Council and LSJ Department at large to show and communicate solidarity with constituents, including current majors and prospective majors,” Jasmine expressed. 

Furthermore, the Council’s showcasing of mutual aid efforts reveals that there are other avenues besides legal avenues to show up and support community members.

“Oftentimes, it is the legal systems and institutions that will fail our communities. In those times of crisis, it is groups led by youth that make an effort to build relationships with community members that we are able to actually do the work necessary to meet and sustain the needs of people,” Jasmine noted. 

Albeit different than past years, this year’s LSJ Month of Service was equally impactful. Moving forward, the LSJ Department hopes to continue showcasing the ways in which LSJ students are giving back to their communities, as well as actively showing solidarity with mutual aid and social justice efforts outside of the immediate UW community. 

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