• Community Service
Rian Julka ’25 Lauded for Community Service by Manhattan Borough President

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rian Julka ’25 needed to pick up items from the store but, with an immunocompromised family member to consider, it was no longer a simple errand. Surely, he thought, someone else among his 8.38 million New York City neighbors was having the same dilemma. Knowing New Yorkers, he was also confident that there were others willing to help – but how could they connect?

The solution was surprisingly modest: An excel spreadsheet where people could post email contact information along with what they needed or what they could offer.

Julka started small, securing permission from his apartment building’s management to post a signup sheet in the building and posted on social media. Word spread quickly and, within 48 hours, participants from approximately 54th to 128th streets on Manhattan’s Upper West Side were signing on to a shared spreadsheet. Local press outlets picked up on the story, and subsequently even more New Yorkers jumped in, either with a need to be met or help to offer. The modest spreadsheet had evolved into an invaluable resource for “an incredibly large number of people from different parts of Manhattan,” Julka explained.

People were eagerly enthusiastic, he said, volunteering to walk pets, pick up prescriptions and groceries, even to teach Spanish, French, or guitar. The Third Former was most surprised to see homework help available from a “certified and experienced grades seven-12 humanities teacher and speech pathologist.”

“This was a New York crowdsource project,” said Julka. “The best thing about it is it shows not only just how many people are willing to help, but also to demonstrate that crowdsourcing can be applied to so many other needs.”

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine celebrated Julka’s work at a ceremony earlier this summer, presenting him with a certificate “in recognition of your commitment and dedication to your community during the pandemic, using your talents [to help] countless Manhattanites … I thank you for your service.”

“I told Mr. Levine that it wasn’t really me, it was New Yorkers all banding together,” Julka said. “New Yorkers are open to helping everyone and doing what needs to be done.”

For additional information, contact Lisa M. Gillard H'17, director of public relations, at lgillard@lawrenceville.org.