2011 Step Forward Day Recap: Women's Track
Sept. 14, 2011
MALIBU, Calif. - Thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends gathered last Saturday (Sept. 10) to take part in Step Forward Day, Pepperdine University's annual day of collective volunteer service. Dozens of campus organizations, including classes, dorms, fraternities, sororities, and clubs, assisted over nonprofit organizations, schools, churches and parks throughout Southern California. Pepperdine athletic teams also came together to give a helping hand, while alumni chapters across the country organized service projects in their own communities.
Step Forward Day began in 1988 when two Pepperdine students recognized the need for volunteers in the local community and sought to encourage service among their peers. The projects began as small acts of service from helping to repair homes of local senior citizens to planting gardens at Webster Elementary School. Today the annual event has grown not only across Southern California, but also to communities nationwide as Pepperdine alumni step forward to help.
The women's track team went to a Malibu Parks & Recreation nature reserve to perform some cleanup duties. Alexa Brown-Watterson (Foothill Ranch, Calif./Trabuco Hills HS) wrote about her experience:
Driving up the hills of Malibu, surrounded by trees and winding roads that crept higher and higher, the track girls on Step Forward Day of 2011 had one question, "Is the bus driver lost?" We quickly realized that there was indeed a destination where we unloaded at a remote "Malibu Parks & Recreation" spot in the middle of the woods. The ocean was nowhere to be seen.
A woman led us to a small open room with beautiful wildlife murals on the walls and the sun beaming in the sky. We were instructed to tear down a wall of cemented rocks that had previously been a fountain but had been too hard to maintain. We would move them to a different location where they would rearrange the rocks into a garden center.
Before we were set to work, a couple girls headed inside a small building to use the restroom where it was suddenly discovered that the building was a small museum of sorts. A huge stuffed deer stood in the center of the room surrounded by stuffed birds, skulls, snakes and tarantulas (both dead and alive in cages), nests, animal skins and fossils. You can imagine our surprise and the very short amount of time it took for us to whip out our cameras and go picture happy.
Once we had our fill of animal artifacts, we suited up in gloves and goggles then grabbed a pickaxe, sledgehammer or various demolishing tools and went to work. A few things we found out: Ants are everywhere in giant, giant families; spider eggs look like mini cotton balls; scorpions and beetles live in the same area; you get competitive when trying to move heavy objects.
Did we sing? You betcha. Did we get work done? Of course. Was our team bonding over sweat, critters and bizarre situations? In fact, we were becoming closer by the second. We encouraged each other, constantly used teamwork to get rocks moved, and laughed or screamed together all the while.
We felt proud as we finally demolished the wall and shared a round of high fives and then, suddenly, one of the girls felt something hit her head. Rapidly, penny-sized hail poured from the sky and we ran into the creature-displayed shelter. Looking out, the hail turned to hard rain and the loudest thunder and brightest lightening shook the little hut as we huddled together, marveling at the drastic change of weather. We had plenty of discussion, napping, music and exploring in the last 30 minutes the team was scheduled to volunteer. Now, we had another question, "Will the bus make it?"
Finally, after discussing how delicious the In-N-Out would taste and how fast we would scarf it down, we heard the beautiful crunch of gravel. The bus had arrived. The team clambered onto the bus and reviewed our eventful service day, soon to arrive at Pepperdine again.
As we sat and ate our juicy burgers in the lush grass, I noticed how Step Forward Day had been such an amazing opportunity for our team to bond and serve in the community at the same time, and I don't doubt there will be further team service projects just as impacting and meaningful.