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On Jan. 22, Mayor and Penn alumnus Michael Nutter launched the 2011 Volunteer Impact Challenge at an all-day event at the Philadelphia Free Library. The challenge, announced by the accompanying website, was set in motion to spearhead the administration’s top 10 volunteer priorities for 2011, according to a press release.

As the new initiative comes to the attention of the Penn community, students who are already deeply involved with community service are reflecting on what the initiative could do to make volunteer opportunities more conspicuous on campus.

According to SERVEPhiladelphia Chief Service Officer Catherine Wolfgang, many Philadelphians are interested in engaging in service activities, but don’t know how to get involved.

“The purpose of the website,” she said, “is to make it easier for citizens of every age and every neighborhood to get connected to service opportunities.”

College junior and Civic House Associates Coalition Co-Chairwoman Anna Caffry said she hopes the service challenge will bring “hype” to the idea of serving in the community.

While Penn provides students with many opportunities to participate in community service, students often don’t seem to have the “motivation” to engage in service activities and think they don’t have the time, she said.

Caffry also noted that an extra potential benefit of the Volunteer Impact Challenge could be to inspire more students to venture off campus and interact with people outside the Penn community.

“I think what’s great about this service is it allows Penn students to volunteer along side other Philadelphians, outside the Penn bubble,” she said.

College senior Ali Huberlie, who serves as the UA teasurer and a Civic House Scholar, was also encouraged by the fact that the program will make it easier for Philadelphians to connect to service opportunities.

However, she also wished public recognition for volunteer services wasn’t a tool being used to motivate participants.

According to the SERVEPhiladelphia website, every four months Mayor Nutter will host a recognition ceremony to honor volunteers.

“I do hope that the SERVEPhiladelphia program can someday be based on something beyond recognition for volunteerism,” Huberlie wrote in an e-mail. The desire to give back to the community “needs to come from the inside,” not “from a desire or need for recognition by the Mayor.”

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