The Val R. Christensen Service Center, Utah State University's official service organization, has been in formal existence since 1970.
The award-winning Center is uniquely organized—students direct and volunteer in each of the programs. The student Service Vice President is the director and is elected by the student body. More than 200 staff members and thousands of volunteers make up the Center. None are monetarily compensated in any way, except for the Service Vice President, who receives a small stipend and a tuition waiver. The secret to the Center's success is recruiting dedicated volunteers. It is indeed an outstanding effort that takes place every year with very minimal resources. The Center is supported by one university staff advisor and a VISTA volunteer. The University provides the staff advisor, office space and other in kind donations to the program.
The Center's programs are numerous and diverse as well as creative in delivering solutions to serious community problems. It operates 22 ongoing programs. A few are highlighted below.
Adopt a Grandparent
About 80 USU students are matched, one-on-one, with elderly people in the community to provide service and friendship through weekly visits.
The Center's Best Buddies chapter is affiliated with National Best Buddies. Forty students are paired up with adults with mental retardation.
Friends of the Elderly
Bingo, dances, caroling, one on one friend shipping and musical performances are just some of the ways that this group serves the elderly in the local community.
About 80 USU students are matched, one-on-one, with local youth ages 6 to 16 who are in need of a positive adult role model. Weekly visits and periodic activities serve to build lasting friendships.
This group handles traditional projects such as blood drives, clothing drives, alternative spring breaks, etc.
Students Teaching Arithmetic and Reading (STAR)
The Center's largest on-going program, STAR is a tutoring program based in elementary schools around the area. Each year, 300 USU students are assigned to specific classrooms where they tutor one hour per week.
Students Together Ending Poverty (STEP)
This is a new program tackling issues of poverty in the area. They are involved with Sub for Santa, Thanksgiving food drives, other food drives, short break trips helping the homeless and hungry, etc.
Students Teaching In the Classroom for Kids to Succeed (STICKS)
This is an after school program integrated into middle and junior high schools in the area, involving about 100 student-tutors.
Special Olympic Fall and Spring Invitational
Twice a year, students in this program create and run an invitational for Special Olympians across the state of Utah. These events require hundreds of hours of service by many USU students.
Every month hundreds of USU students participate in a new, campus-wide service project developed by Volunteer Corp. So far this year, projects have included a leaf raking day, a fund raiser for Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) and a "Giving Tree" for Christmas.
In addition to these programs, the Center is very proactive in community involvement and in cooperative efforts among University and community groups. Each of the students who volunteer has made service a habit of the heart.