An Insatiable Desire to Serve

On a Sunday night in February, 800 students and hundreds of volunteers gathered together to raise 13 white cardboard squares high above their heads, which read: $1,785,286.96.

An additional $1.785 million raised in our students’ 12-year fight against pediatric cancer, which has raised a collective $11,616,829.58 for research and patient care in the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncolocy Clinic.

As the lights dimmed and the stands in Memorial Coliseum cleared following the celebration, we were reminded that this effort is a powerful illustration of our students’ passion for addressing and engaging in the important issues of our day. That spirit of purpose is alive across our campus.

Our students believe deeply – as Charles Dickens did – that, “no one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  Annually, UK students engage in more than 100,000 volunteer hours in our community and beyond.

For spring break, some of our students will head home, travel abroad, or relax on sandy beaches in coastal communities. Others, though, will travel across the nation and world to serve as part of UK’s Alternative Service Break. For the past nine years, Alternative Service Break (ASB) has provided opportunities for students to turn their breaks into a meaningful opportunity to serve.

UK ASB offers a variety of service immersion opportunities to UK students during spring, winter, and summer breaks that challenge students to engage in social issues and reflect on their work.  This year, the organization, housed in the Center for Community Outreach, is organizing service opportunities in and with:

  • Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, working with Outreach360 on global youth empowerment; 
  • Jinotega, Nicaragua, working with Outreach360 on global youth empowerment; 
  • David, Kentucky, working with The David School; 
  • New Orleans, Louisiana, working with St. Bernard Project on disaster relief and gentrification; 
  • Washington, DC, working with The Steinbruck Center on hunger and homelessness; 
  • Silver Springs, Florida, working with Forest Animal Rescue on animal conservationism;
  • Columbus, Ohio, working with USTogether on refugee resettlement and immigration; 
  • And Atlanta, Georgia, working with International Rescue Committee on refugee resettlement; 

ASB service immersions encourage students to reach beyond the borders of Lexington. For most participants, hard work and service quickly transforms into the realization that spending their free time outside of Lexington, in service to others, offered more than a way to spend their spring break. Students return with a better sense of the world and their role in lightening the burdens of others.

This kind of realization and growth are fundamental components of service learning and the experiences we provide at the University of Kentucky. From DanceBlue to FUSION, and Alternative Service Break to the personal interactions in soup kitchens and shelters across our city, UK students remind us of the importance of serving others.