Volunteerism is good for everyone

Students and faculty should include volunteering as part of their learning experience.

Trent M. Kays

Education is a privilege. There are many who will never receive it and, equally distressing, there are many who will never use it. For those who will use their education, it becomes a responsibility to give back to the community. ItâÄôs important to recognize the opportunities only made available through the support of oneâÄôs community and society.

Understanding the opportunities afforded to me, IâÄôve always endeavored to serve my community. I realized long ago it is only through my community and the society surrounding me that I am able to achieve my goals and dreams.

I do not want to diminish the determination and sacrifices IâÄôve made in order to get where I am, nor would I want to do so for any person working toward their education and goals. But IâÄôve always felt a responsibility to my community to put into practice what IâÄôve learned for the greater good and betterment of all people.

Even though I have a busy schedule, it doesnâÄôt stop me from advocating for and engaging in community service. I believe for anyone in higher education, from freshmen students to full professors, community service should be required.

Volunteerism is important because it gives people an opportunity to help those in need, serve their community and work toward improving society. It can be highly satisfying and keep people grounded in the reality of day-to-day life.

Volunteerism isnâÄôt encouraged enough in higher education. There seems to be an idea that since one made it into college, one is too occupied with his or her studies to volunteer. However, volunteerism is an education unto itself, and it can embolden whatâÄôs learned in the classroom with other life experiences.

The University of Minnesota has an excellent resource center for students who wish to volunteer for a worthy cause. The Community Service-Learning Center located in Appleby Hall connects students with community service opportunities around the Twin Cities. The CSLC is partnered with more than 200 nonprofit organizations in need of able and willing volunteers.

Many of the units on the UniversityâÄôs campus are also in need of volunteers. The Academic Health Center, College of Veterinary Medicine and Immigration History Research Center are just a few places on campus that need dedicated volunteers.

Among the breadth of opportunities offered through the University, the CSLC is unique. It offers a special program for undergraduate students: the Community Engagement Scholars Program. This is a program dedicated to helping undergraduates serve their community. In return, undergraduates receive recognition from their community and the University in being identified as a âÄúCommunity Engagement Scholar.âÄù This recognition carries over onto their transcripts and it highlights their dedication to the community.

However, this program is only offered to undergraduate students. Graduate, professional and doctoral students are not included in this program, which is unfortunate. The program could provide students at all levels an opportunity to serve their community and be recognized by the University for their good works. The University and CSLC are missing out on a prime opportunity to encourage more community engagement and volunteerism by limiting the program to only undergraduate students.

Of course, you donâÄôt need to locate a volunteer opportunity through the University. There are plenty of organizations not affiliated with the University in need of volunteers, and many of them can be found on websites like VolunteerMatch, HandsOn Twin Cities and Serve.gov. These are nonprofit organizations that help connect people with both local and national volunteer opportunities.

While any of the aforementioned sites are excellent, the best thing about VolunteerMatch is they also accommodate those looking for online volunteerism. Not everyone can volunteer in-person or may not be comfortable doing so. This organization solves this problem by allowing users to search for online volunteer opportunities. I have never volunteered online because I believe one of the best features of community service is being able to connect in-person with your neighbors, but IâÄôm also aware some people canâÄôt find the time to volunteer in-person.

Ultimately, the point of community service is helping your neighbors and surrounding community without expecting anything in return. At the most, all one should expect is a pat on the back and a hearty thanks. ThatâÄôs it. Volunteerism isnâÄôt solely about the individual; itâÄôs about a community working together to better itself.

Each person contributing, even though it may be small, in order to better his or her community and assist those in need of help. Volunteering with an organization is a great way to ensure your will and efforts are targeted where theyâÄôre most needed.

I believe the University should encourage community service for anyone affiliated with it, from freshmen to full professors. The University should especially encourage such activity among students because they are more likely to carry the spirit of volunteerism with them when they leave the UniversityâÄôs hallowed halls and classrooms. They will carry it with them into their lives, careers, homes and families, and our community and society will be better for it.