Volunteering changed my life – no, seriously. It is volunteerism that taught me that I wanted to make a difference in our world, what made me a “wannabe superhero” – what fulfills me on days that I feel like I can’t do another thing. I’ve spent many of my 31 years finding ways to give back, whether it is through time or financial support, it is important to me to dedicate myself in some way to organizations, people, places – that need help to keep going. When I was asked to write for this series, though, I felt a bit guilty. In July, I started my first full-time role in Student Affairs. With this new role came a brand new city – which certainly does not lack need – plenty of opportunities to continue to give my time, money, and/or skills. Despite these opportunities, I haven’t done any volunteer work or service since arriving here – hence the guilt. So, today, I write to you to talk about why volunteering is important – for you, for your students, and for our world. I won’t be able to offer any research to support my claims, just what comes from my heart.
I am of the opinion that good citizenship is one of the most important behaviors an individual can endorse. As a student affairs professional, I strive to help students understand that membership in a community is the most valuable gift they can ever earn. I cannot think of a better way to become part of a community than serving in it. There is no shortage of individuals and organizations that need our help. When I first began my career in student affairs, I had the pleasure of doing so at the University of Kentucky in the Office of Residence Life. During senior staff training each year, we had the honor of serving different organizations in our community – there is really nothing better than coming together as a staff to put in work to help better the world we live in.
This is why I highly encourage you to consider including service in your staff training and development. Use these opportunities to learn about one another while you make a difference! Admittedly, organizing such an event can take a lot of work – but – it is so worth it in the end. If this is something you’re interested in, and you just don’t know where to start, here are some ideas: make tie-blankets for the homeless, have a PB&J building party and then donate the sandwiches to a local shelter, hold a canned food drive and whichever team brings in the most cans wins a pizza party, spend a day beautifying your campus and surrounding neighborhoods, or fill book-bags with school supplies for the local school system. The pride that comes from giving to others will have an effect on your staff – they will learn from the opportunity, and they will likely use this an example for engaging our students in volunteerism as well.
The size of your donation – be it through time, manpower, or money – does not matter. The truth is that no one person can change the entire city – but, several small acts can. Work with other offices on your campus and see how you can make it an event for many partners to participate in. You will be changed – and so will you community.
This post is part of our #SAvolunteers series, which will explore volunteering in all its forms, for all its reasons. For those student affairs pros who log in more hours once they leave the office, without the monetary reward, this one’s for you! For more information on this series, please see Jessi Robinson’s intro post. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Kathryne Auerback on Values Based Leadership and The Social Change Model