UCF's CFE Arena was overrun by "Change Agents" on Saturday when students, faculty and alumni joined forces to make a difference in the community through Volunteer UCF's eighth annual Knights Give Back event.
The event featured 24 service sites with projects aimed at making a positive impact on the people, places and things that makeup the UCF community.
Previously held at The Venue, the event was moved to the CFE Arena this year and Knights Give Back was prepared to accommodate 1,300 volunteers to work at the 24 service sites — four more than last year.
"You get a picture in your mind leading up to the event but you never quite know until you get there. It was as great as I had hoped it would be … I feel really good about it," said Todd Currie, a senior event management major and the student director for Volunteer UCF.
Preliminary numbers show that between 800 and 900 volunteers checked in at the CFE Arena, but that count does not include satellite campuses or other service sites arranged through area alumni chapters.
"While 1,300 volunteers was our ultimate goal, over 1,000 between all the sites is still very good," Currie said.
Knights Give Back reached out to various on-campus groups, organizations and the Alumni Association to promote this year's event and encourage greater participation.
Currie said he hopes they can expand on their current marketing and public-relations strategy to reach more potential volunteers and help the event grow consistently every year.
Esther Mezhibovsky, a senior biomedical sciences major, volunteered with fellow members of the American Red Cross Club.
"We wanted to find something we could do as a group and stay local so this seemed like a good opportunity, plus it's through UCF so we could represent being a Knight," she said.
Her group was assigned to clean and plant in UCF's Arboretum, one of only three on-campus sites. Other sites were scattered across Orlando, from Apopka to Bithlo.
At Project Bithlo volunteers co-hosted a Family Fun Day in conjunction with United Global Outreach, a nonprofit organization that focuses on transforming neglected and underprivileged communities.
"I couldn't be more excited about the might of UCF coming on board with this transformation effort," said Timothy McKinney, executive vice-president of United Global Outreach.
McKinney hopes that by connecting UCF students with the project, they will be inspired to continue their involvement in the transformation effort.
"We have a plan to actually turn this community around because your neighborhood should not dictate your future; where you grow up should not determine how successful you are in life," McKinney said.
Peter Yip, a freshman mechanical engineering major, heard about Knights Give Back through a friend and chose to volunteer with Project Bithlo.
"It really opens your eyes because it's right at home. We're used to the UCF area that is very privileged, but it's right down the street from here. It gives you a new perspective on how the world works and how you can help to make it so much better," Yip said.
While Knights Give Back is the largest day of giving for Volunteer UCF, the organization also hosts smaller events based on the 12 social issues it works to improve.
Students interested in additional volunteering opportunities should visit the Volunteer UCF website or browse its event calendar on KnightConnect.