U students make efforts to volunteer

While some groups offer credit, many students volunteer just to effect change.

Elizabeth Cook

University student Jaymes Grossman will receive the Congressional Award Gold Medal on June 21 at Capitol Hill, partially for his community involvement. His 16-year-old sister, Jansina, also will receive the award.

The 18-year-old computer engineering and electrical engineering senior did Web development for Phi Theta Kappa, the international honors program for two-year colleges, planned a trip to Europe with his family, tutored math and put in more than 400 volunteer hours over a little more than two years.

College students across the country volunteer thousands of hours of their time each year – some for school credit and some, like Grossman, out of the goodness of their hearts.

Grossman chose to volunteer with the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) Association because his uncle has had the disease, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, for eight years.

Grossman didn’t volunteer to get the award, but said it is “awesome to be recognized” for the volunteer work he’s done.

According to the 2005 National Survey of Student Engagement, about 59 percent of college seniors and 37 percent of first-year students had done volunteer work. The survey included 190,000 first-year students and seniors from 530 four-year colleges and universities and was administered by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research in cooperation with the Indiana University Center for Survey Research.

At the University, the chance to help out can come through the Community Engagement Scholars Program, which gives students the opportunity to work with local organizations for credit.

Laurel Hirt, the service learning and community involvement director, said the program aims to help students learn better by getting them to do hands-on work in their area of study.

In a little more than a year, there have been more than 200 students signed into the program, Hirt said.

Aside from school credit, Hirt said some students participate because the work is rewarding.

“There are a group of students who really value doing community work,” she said.

According to the Community Involvement and Service-Learning Web site, Habitat for Humanity is one organization that offers college credit.

Cullen Deck, an aerospace sophomore and social coordinator for the University’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, wasn’t aware of the credit benefits.

Deck decided to get involved about four years ago, while still in high school.

Deck said he does it because it’s fun to help people – but more than that, he likes to work with his hands and hang out with his friends, he said.

The number of people attending regular group meetings ranges anywhere from 20 to 100, he said.

When a house is being built, the signup sheet normally goes up the Monday before construction and is filled within a day or two, Deck said.

Another organization students volunteer for is Ebenezer, devoted to helping older adults and people in need.

Noreen Huntington, the campus volunteer and auxiliary director for Ebenezer, said 30 to 40 students helped last year and some came back even after they received their college credit.

Many students enjoyed the program and said they felt like they walked away with more than they gave, she said.

Still, volunteering is not for everyone.

Aaron Jacobs, a philosophy senior, said he’s never volunteered, but he has thought about helping immigrants learn English.

But Jacobs said it hasn’t happened yet for two reasons – he’s too busy and too lazy.