Editor’s Eye: Huskies serve in many ways

Jon Marmor, Columns MagazineBy educating our state’s citizens, searching for solutions to overcome the vexing problems of our time, and creating art and culture that uplifts and challenges us, the University of Washington serves us in many ways.

A few examples: Students in the UW’s Department of Communication are taking part in an innovative partnership with The Seattle Times to inform us with on-the-street digital media coverage of the 2012 election season; Our piece The Warrior and the War Reporter brings us lessons from an alum-turned-Medal-of-Honor recipient, as learned by another alum who is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning war correspondent.

And then there’s our story on Community for Youth, a local nonprofit organization that pairs mentors with freshmen attending the Seattle high schools with the highest dropout rates. Greg Hay, ’77, ’05, ’07, is a software engineer who earned four degrees from the UW—in interdisciplinary arts, anthropology, information technology—but his volunteer job is lifesaver. He and a few dozen other volunteer mentors spend their free time working with kids who experienced the worst kinds of chaos: homelessness, parents who abandoned them, or were drug dealers, or worse.

It should not come as a surprise that many of those volunteer mentors are UW grads; or that many of the organization’s board members are alumni; or that a good number of these struggling students—such as Vanny Chham and Marcel Buckner—were able to overcome devastating challenges, thanks to their UW mentors, to attend the UW.

“Huskies helping Huskies is one of our mottos,” Hay tells me.

This is service at the gut level, where one life is turned around one hour at a time, through a late-night phone call, or a last-minute get-together on a Sunday afternoon to discuss a problem at school—all because someone who went to the UW cared enough to do something. Then again, that description is apt for the legions of students, faculty, staff and alumni serving in the military, researchers working to cure cancer, or people like Greg Hay spending their free time to help kids overcome monumental challenges to reach for the stars. It’s a legacy we can be proud of.