Students gathered outside Springhaven lodge to watch a lightshow of glow sticks being launched into the sky to celebrate the
creation of their 70th program. The Y-Serve student leaders spent the night at a training retreat where all activities and classes were focused on the coming semester and accomplishing Y-Serve’s motto to “provide every student with a meaningful service opportunity.”
The student Y-Serve program has been a prominent feature of BYU since 1999. Every service program is presented and run by students. BYU’s school service program is one of the largest in Utah and is still growing.
The lit-up yard reflected the lit up faces of the student volunteers as they cheered. Some were veterans of the organization, some were brand new that day, but all were unified in their common goals of serving both their community and student body.
Each semester is jump-started by a retreat held at LDS Church-owned lodge in Hobble Creek, which is tucked away in the woods, purposely outside the reach of cell service. Student leadership works tirelessly to provide everyone with meaningful discussions and training to instill the spirit of Y-Serve.
“We are working hard to get our program off the ground.” said Sean O’Rourke, a program director for PAWS, “We’ve learned how to do that here and now can take it back to campus.”
There is an intrinsic framework in Y-Serve including a student service council, teacher supervisor, student program directors, and student volunteers.
Sporting her royal blue Y-Serve t-shirt along with 200 other volunteers, Service Council President Leah Lehmuller spoke of the purpose of the retreat.
“I’ve learned more from Y-Serve than all of my academic classes combined.” Lehmuller said, “We have the responsibility to serve and there is always something for everyone.”
Y-Serve works through community partners to meet the needs of those seeking help. Programs include working with at-risk youth, community clean-up, adopting a grandparent, and special-needs mentoring.
BYU’s service organization is one of the largest in the state, and it is growing quickly. Having added their last 2 programs just this week, they are also seeking new volunteers.
“The student volunteers are our lifeblood, they are our framework,” O’Rourke said. “At this retreat we learn how to meet their needs.”
A sense of unity is established through the volunteers by games of tug-of-war, quiet reflections and discussions.
“Uniting our programs this weekend is going to ignite the Y-Serve spirit across campus, because we are working together rather than as solitary entities.” said Drew Curtis, a program director for global services.
The Y-serve office stands in a central location in the Wilkinson Student Center. Students can “stop and serve” for a moment between classes or join a program for a larger commitment
According to Y-Serve’s website, 2012 saw 24,990 BYU students volunteering 125,499 hours of service. The local United Way calculates each hour of volunteer service at $20.85 and The United Way estimates the economic impact of those hours to be over 2.5 million.
But after joining his friends watching the light show to end a busy night, John Hancock, a program director for family literacy, hopes he can help volunteers see beyond the monetary value of serving.
“Honestly, doing service is probably one of the most fulfilling parts of my semesters.” Hancock said.
To learn more about Y-Serve visit https://yserve.byu.edu/ or visit their office at 2010 in the Wilkinson Center.