One of my favorite things about Berkeley is how passionate and caring the students are. Cal students are always willing to go above and beyond not only in their academic classes, but in their community as well. This same passionate spirit and dedication is fully embodied in the Berkeley Project.
The Berkeley Project is a club on campus that provides students with the opportunity to give back to the community for one day each semester. Each semester, thousands of students venture out into the community to various work sites and engage in a full day of service. Projects range from gardening to weeding to painting to everything in between. The groups are all various student organizations on campus that want to make a positive contribution to the community, and the groups we work with are all various nonprofits or projects through the City of Berkeley.
For the last couple years, I have served as a leader for the Cal Band group. The experience is a really unique and special one to me; instead of spending our Saturdays at a Cal Football game, we do a short early morning performance and then go out into the greater Berkeley area to serve the community. In past years, we have weeded the Berkeley Rose Garden, cleaned up at the Berkeley Aquatic Park, and gardened at the Clark Kerr Gardens.
Today we were stationed at the Center for Food, Faith, and Justice, a community garden that produces food for the Berkeley Food Pantry in order to fight food insecurity in the larger Berkeley Community. We started our day at 7:30 with a quick performance for the other Berkeley Project volunteers and then took a bus to our work site. We spent the majority of the day raking leaves, putting in irrigation lines and planting various vegetable, herb, and bean crops to produce food for the Pantry. We were a large group and we worked quickly, so there wasn’t always enough work for everyone to do, but by the time we finished the garden was completely transformed. The area once covered in weeds and leaves had been cleaned up and the crops were so neatly planted and irrigated that it looked like something out of a picture.
For many students who participate in Berkeley Project, the day is simply just one day to give back. But for many others, Berkeley Project opens up a gateway to the greater Berkeley Community and provides students with a chance to explore our outside environment and potentially even find a long term project to be involved with.
To me, Berkeley Project is a reminder of how incredibly special Berkeley is. On our way home today, I saw another Berkeley Project group get on the same bus, with the same exhausted energy but with big smiles on their faces. As we rode back up to campus, I realized how lucky I am to live in a place with such a passionate and caring community.