UNIQUE program offers constant camaraderie

Denise Barajas

The Union Network for Innovative and Quality University Entertainment Programs has seen their volunteer numbers soar as more members bond together.

UNIQUE Programs is a volunteer group that hosts a variety of events on campus each semester that are inexpensive forms of entertainment for not only Sacramento State students but community members as well.

Program adviser, Ajamu Lamumba, says UNIQUE has progressively evolved into a place for students to build community on campus, “I’m hearing a lot of positive things about our meetings…overall [last week] we had about 75 students show up at our meetings.”

Lamumba is not only pleased to see membership go up, but he is also proud of the subtle changes he has witnessed over the years among his program’s members. “I’m hearing things like ’oh my UNIQUE family’ and ‘let’s go shopping together’ and ‘let’s go hang out.’ So we really are building community at Sac State with this program and that makes me happy,” said Lamumba.

Danielle Carr, a sophomore majoring in Asian Studies, agreed with Lamumba’s sentiments.

“Being in UNIQUE has given me so many opportunities and friends. This is the one place where I can be myself and feel comfortable,” Carr said. “Every one of the volunteers of UNIQUE is incredibly diverse. I have met so many beautiful people who I consider to be close friends. I also have been able to have great experiences and open my mind to new ideas that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I wasn’t a part of UNIQUE.”

Carr’s statement reinforces the notion that while UNIQUE may be primarily geared toward bringing quality and affordable entertainment to campus, for many of its student volunteers it is so much more.

“I love being a part of the UNIQUE Program, they are like family to me. I’m from Los Angeles and I came to Sacramento not knowing anyone and now I know a ton of people,” said Justine Johnson, a second-year majoring in social work. “I currently even live with two girls that I met in the UNIQUE Program and I am happy to have them as my housemates. If I didn’t have the opportunity to join UNIQUE, I do not know how my college life would be.”

Johnson also touched on some of the other benefits brought to UNIQUE volunteers aside from friendships. “Being a part of UNIQUE has helped me in the long run because I now know how to properly work audio equipment [so] when I have a job or an internship interview, just saying I volunteer for UNIQUE can help me go a long way,” she said.

Leticia Garcia, a senior majoring in communications agrees with Johnson and said, “Unique for me has been a great experience. Not only did I meet the coolest individuals who I basically call family now, but I also got to learn what it’s like to volunteer…I’m glad I’ve become a part of the UNIQUE crew. This experience has taught me how to build more leadership skills & [has helped me] become more active on campus.”

Long time UNIQUE member and current program assistant Carly Preston, a fifth-year majoring in chemistry, has had a similar experience with UNIQUE. “I started as a volunteer my very first week at Sac State and was a volunteer for almost three years until I got my position and it’s been great seeing volunteers feeling welcomed into our environment and all excited about our events,” she said.

When asked how she felt about the recent influx of volunteers, Preston said, “It’s always really interesting to see who sticks around, especially when they come into the office and you get to know them better. That’s one of the parts I really enjoy about having this position…because you grow closer to students who feel comfortable enough coming up to me or Ajamu to ask questions about events or even for advice about life.”

With so many new members coming in some might ask, how does such a diverse group still stay cohesive? To which Preston had to say, “We’ve really been trying to do our best to make sure that everyone feels included so we avoid cliques. And we’ve even been making sure that older volunteers are incorporating newer people…we also typically try to host a few socials outside of UNIQUE, like bowling, so that everyone can get to know each other better.”

UNIQUE is open to all Sac State students interested in volunteering regardless of their major or class standing. Any student who would like to join is welcome to attend either one of their meetings held on Mondays and Tuesdays in the Capital room on the third floor of the Union at noon.

Samantha Quigley a senior majoring in business administration says, “I transferred to Sac State from Sac City and I didn’t really know anyone. So I joined Unique to get the ‘college experience’ and it turned out to be really great. I’ve been able to do things that I never thought I would, like meeting Sage the Gemini and playing piano with the pianist from the Mowgli’s… and going to Outside Lands to see Elton John. All thanks to Unique…I highly recommend joining UNIQUE to any student looking to get out of their shell and meeting new people.”

If you are someone who is interested in joining but may be afraid of making the commitment Lamumba pointed out the flexibility.

“The thing with UNIQUE is it’s volunteer based so you don’t have to commit to a full semester. It’s honestly more like a spring-board for some students to get involved… and it’s a good place where students can start to develop their interests,” Lamumba said.

During the regular academic school year, UNIQUE hosts two events per week. Every Wednesday students and community members can expect a “Nooner” to be hosted inside the Redwood room in the Union or outdoors in the Serna Plaza (if weather permits). Every Thursday they can expect an evening event typically hosted in the Union ballroom.

Aside from annual events like the San Francisco Comedy Competition, Tom DeLuca the Hypnotist, and the Vagina Monologues; UNIQUE also hosts movie nights, concerts, guest speakers, and special performances.

For more information on how to get involved or about upcoming events like the “Students Fight Back” violent prevention and self-defense class, returning guest speaker Kel Mitchel, or performing artist Tinashe, check out their website via theuniversityunion.com/unique or head over to their office located on the third floor of the Union.