Each year, hundreds of Yale alumni, students, staff, family, and friends take part in Yale Day of Service, giving back to local communities across the country and around the world. In this series, we’ll be spotlighting a few of those Yalies, who discuss how they got involved and what service means to them.
This week, we feature Alicia Morris ’99, who, below, reflects on her first time participating in Yale Day of Service, how she became involved in the Yale service community, and why she gives back.
How did you become part of Yale’s alumni service community?
I first became involved in Yale's alumni service community by participating in a 2010 Yale Day of Service event in the California Bay Area coordinated by Amy Segal ’86. Organized by Save The Bay in partnership with the East Bay Regional Park District, our community-based restoration project entailed removing non-native weeds, collecting native plant seeds, and cleaning up trash and debris at the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park toward improving the Bay's wetland habitat. (Visit Restoring Our Wetlands - Save The Bay for information on the benefits of restoring and preserving wetlands.)
Since then, I've also participated in service trips with the Yale Alumni Service Corps (YASC).
Tell us a story that exemplifies service for you. Or perhaps a favorite Yale Day of Service memory.
During my time at Yale, I served as a volunteer language interpreter at Yale-New Haven Hospital. On one occasion, I was brought in to interpret between a Spanish-speaking elderly woman and the English-speaking doctors who were strategizing about treatment options for one of her grandchildren for whom she was the primary caretaker. Midway through the exchange, I sensed the grandmother's discomfort and that she might be holding back some key insights as a result. With the doctors' permission, the woman and I took a few minutes to speak directly, and she shared with me openly her previously unexpressed concerns, which, with her permission, I then conveyed back to the medical team. From that point onward, we were able to have a more fluid, transparent conversation and both parties got what they needed to proceed with confidence.
Although seemingly mundane, the experience was one of many I've had during volunteer service over the years that reinforce the principles of centering the beneficiary of support, listening with all my senses, meeting people where they are, and engaging for sustainable impact.
Why is service through Yale a priority for you?
Pablo Picasso is credited with saying “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Not only are the exposure I gained, the lifelong relationships I've built, and the doors I've been fortunate to walk through because of my Yale experience gifts in and of themselves, but they've also paved the way for me to cultivate my talents and unique gifts. Service through Yale is a priority for me because it enables alumni to walk more fully in their purpose by giving those gifts away, all while honoring the university's mission “to improve the world today and for future generations.”
What would you say to a fellow alum about meaningful reasons to get involved in Yale service activities?
As an alum of Yale, the heritage you possess is vibrant, far more than academic, and made richer because of you. Participating in Yale service activities is a great way not only to preserve that richness, but also to extend it to other people and communities toward sustainable development both locally and worldwide. Furthermore, it provides invaluable opportunities to harness your leadership skills; to reconnect your personal values with the institutional values that drew you to Yale in the first place; and to expand your network among other alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the school across classes and generations.
To find a service project near you, visit our 2022 Yale Day of Service project page.
And visit our Spotlight on Service page to see all the service spotlight conversations.