Just two days before classes resume at the University of Alabama for its fall semester, students were out and active serving the Tuscaloosa community as a part of UA's 27th annual Ripple Effect.

70 freshmen, student leaders and UA faculty volunteered at six sites across Tuscaloosa on Monday including the UA Arboretum, the West Alabama Food Bank, Tuscaloosa Emergency Services and more.

"This is their community, and we want them to take a little ownership of that," said Courtney Chapman Thomas, Director of Service and Leadership at UA. "The essence of higher ed learning is creating active and engaged citizens, and we want to ensure that by teaching volunteerism, voting and community action."

The Ripple Effect is only the first step to jumpstart student engagement in the community, with future events including the continuation of Al's Pals, student involvement at 22 non-profit organizations each week, UA Dance Marathon and the Beat Auburn, Beat Hunger food drive.

Maintaining student safety is a priority, says Chapman Thomas. Typically, the Ripple Effect would include over 1,000 students serving across the community. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes in most of the university's volunteer programs.

"All we did was make a little pivot," said Chapman Thomas. "For instance, Al's Pal's is going virtual this semester. And that allows us to keep that one-on-one experience the students need but on a new platform. We can engage more students, some who couldn't make it to sites physically."

This is only the start, she said, and praised the eagerness the students exhibited as they gave back to the community Monday. To learn how you can volunteer visit:

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