TAMPA — Forgive them for starting off the day a little surly. For college students, 8 a.m. on a Saturday isn’t necessarily their finest hour.
“It’s early, and it’s cold, and at first, we’re all kind of reluctant to go,” said Francis Gelormini, a sophomore accounting major at the University of South Florida. “But you see that everyone’s there for the same reason, and it encourages you. You know that for one morning, the least you can do is give back. You see your attitude change during the day.”
Gelormini and more than 2,500 of his fellow students will buck up this morning for the Stampede for Service, the university’s annual daylong commitment to painting, fixing, cleaning and other chores for more than 40 organizations around Tampa Bay.
Gelormini is a veteran, having served as a site leader last year at the Cracker Country attraction at the state fairgrounds.
“It was really a good feeling knowing that I was a part of this and that USF was making its mark that day,” he said.
Veronica Valencia, a junior in health sciences, also participated last year, sorting and packing food at the Beth-El farmworker’s ministry, and she’s back for another Stampede.
“It was a lot of fun getting to know people at USF that are also interested in helping the community,” she said. “I really liked the type of work that they did.”
All told, USF students will contribute about 6,400 hours of community service, said Justin Fitzgerald, assistant director of the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement at USF.
The Stampede was founded in 2006 by a student seeking an appropriate way to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Fitzgerald said the volunteers are guided by four of King’s key values: Live your purpose, justice for all, empower individuals and strengthen communities.
The day starts at the Corbett Soccer Stadium on campus, with students fanning out by bus or car pool to the work sites. Students can return to USF for an after-party.
Shane Heiser, a freshman in accounting and business administration, is looking forward to his first Stampede.
“I’m excited to do this,” he said. “I like to see the difference that it makes. Even the smallest thing can change one person’s life.”