The Neptune Community at Academic Village, one of UCF’s newest on-campus housing facilities, is home to the Volunteers uKnighted living-learning community. The Volunteers uKnighted community promotes service through citizenship increasing social awareness, civic responsibility, and one’s appreciation, involvement, and engagement in the local and global communities. Residents of this community served on an Alternative Spring Break trip in partnership with the Volunteer UCF Alternative Break Program travelling to Wauchula, Florida to work at the Center for Great Apes (www.centerforgreatapes.org).
Eight residents along with Resident Assistant Maria LoPorto and Neptune Area Coordinator Jeremy Foskitt participated in the trip. The Center for Great Apes is a sanctuary home to 46 rescued and retired chimpanzees and orangutans who have been rescued or retired from the entertainment industry, from research, or who are no longer wanted as pets. The center provides care with dignity in a safe, healthy and enriching environment for great apes in need of lifetime care.
The group cleaned up around the habitats and completed landscaping and grounds work to get the center ready for its semi-annual membership event at the end of the month, harvested food in gardens to feed the orangutans and chimpanzees, filed chutes as part of the apes’ habitats, and even prepared pickle and ketchup sandwiches as an enrichment project for the apes – one of their favorite treats.
First-year resident Mahaillie Griffith said that the experience was one that will definitely be unforgettable. “I enjoyed interacting with the apes and observing their intelligent personalities. I learned so much from the experience and I also loved making new friendships with the people on the trip.” Madelyn LaGoy agreed that the experience helped her learn while she served for a great cause. “I feel that we accomplished a lot, and I liked how by the end, we all knew so much about the apes.”
Some of the students who went on the trip were able to bring back what they learned while serving the Center for Great Apes and use it to advocate to their fellow students. After hearing about the struggles and cruelty that some of the apes have endured, freshman Veronica Peters was moved to create a speech to give to her fellow students in her Oral Communication class to teach them about her experience. “My persuasive speech is about ending the use of apes in entertainment. I’m actually using a couple of the apes’ stories as supporting points.”
In less than one week, Volunteers uKnighted residents collectively logged over 300 hours of service on their ASB trip. However, this is only a small percentage of service that these residents have participated in since August 2013. Neptune Community residents have participated in hundreds of service hours benefitting the Central Florida Zoo, No Child Hungry, UCF Creative School for Children, Oviedo-Winter Springs Optimist Club, B.A.S.E. Camp, and many other organizations around the Central Florida and greater Orlando communities.
Volunteer UCF in the Office of Student Involvement and Housing and Residence Life are in the Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services.