During this season of giving, Y-Serve reflects on all it has given

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As I arrived at the event, I was immediately impressed with the level of formality. Attendees were all dressed in suits or elegant dresses.

Tables had silk table cloths laid across them, and servers were beginning to hand out a feast to this group of more than 30 young men and women.

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Casey Peterson speaks to the Y-Serve leadership at the reflection meeting Wednesday, Dec. 11. (Photo by Tyler Lewis)

I soon discovered I was in the wrong place. The members of my table informed me this was a ward dinner party, not a Y-Serve reflection meeting.

Arriving late to the Y-Serve meeting, I was warmly greeted by the director of the Center for Service and Learning, Casey Peterson. He told me to help myself to a soup bowl and said he had several volunteers willing to interview with me.

As I took my seat I couldn’t help but recognize the humility of the volunteers and environment at this reflection meeting. They discussed their love for those they served while they enjoyed their soup and cookies, which were very likely their only temporal reward for their hours of service.

Peterson walked to the front of the room to say a few words about service and its effect on his life. “It’s been an eraser for me,” he said. Peterson explained how service has eliminated the separations in his life between family, work and recreation and has helped him realize he should have a life centered on service.

Everyone at the event separated into groups of six or seven and was given questions to discuss and help them reflect on the service they’ve done. At my table, a very passionate Michael Murri reflected, “If you don’t decide to make time to serve in college, you most likely won’t serve later on.”

Y-Serve leaders directing the event stopped the discussion to watch a video created by volunteer videographer Tyler Lewis. The video showed students playing games with children and throwing parties with individuals with special needs.

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Program directors discuss their experiences serving. (Photo by Tyler Lewis)

In the video, volunteer Blake Marchant shared, “(My Y-Serve experience) will affect how I’ll live the rest of my life.”

Another program director, Regan Ericson, said, “When you see the rewards of Y-Serve you want to keep doing it.”

Peterson directed me to a particular individual he felt would be great to interview. He waved down Kenzie Weeks from across the room. She seemed happy and stress free despite the obviously large amount of responsibilities she needed to attend to.

Her expression turned to dread when she considered her busy future, but she doesn’t have any intentions to stop serving.

“I definitely want to stick with Y-Serve for the rest of my schooling. It makes me too happy,” Weeks said, her expression changing back to cheerfulness.

When the video ended, members of the event talked and joked with each other as they cleaned up and helped put away tables and leftover food.

As Leah Lemuller, student president of Y-Serve, helped put things away, a noticeably large group followed her wherever she went. As I interviewed her, she was barraged with friendly high-fives and hugs. Lemuller continually smiled and acknowledged their greetings, seamlessly jumping back into her response to each question I asked.

Sharing more about her gratitude for the past year in the program, Lemuller said, “I think it’s incredible to see the amount of students that are eager and willing to serve.”

Although she was pleased with how far Y-Serve has come, Lemuller shared with me her plans and hopes for the future.

“(We want) to continue to build awareness and maintain members — it’s about keeping the fire up,” she said, laughing as she used her hands to emphasize her words.

When we ended our interview she was immediately surrounded in conversation with other friends.

At the end of the event, everyone returned their name tags to be re-used for next year’s meeting. Y-Serve faculty and student volunteers told jokes, continued to offer help cleaning up and volunteering rides home.

I sat on a couch outside the meeting room knowing I had just been converted as I thought to myself, “I need to do more service.”

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