One way students can get involved and gain work experience is by volunteering in the community. One of the main focuses of the Community Involvement Center is to help students find those service opportunities.
“The way that service benefits the student is they are gaining practical hands-on knowledge rather than just learning from a textbook,” Mike Moon, Weber State University Community Involvement Center Assistant Director, said.
Carla Jones, WSU Community Involvement Center Office Specialist, said they try to educate students about the center every semester. The center tries to help students find the right service opportunity for their lifestyle, so that they can get more out of their education.
Anjela Long, a WSU senior, found a volunteer opportunity through the Community Involvement Center. Through her experience volunteering at the YMCA Women’s Center she has learned better planning, coordinating and collaborating skills. She said that her learning went beyond the curriculum of her Women’s Studies. She got to see firsthand the challenges that women from other cultures face when they come to America.
“It is much better than reading about Women’s Studies in a book. It is human interaction,” Long said, “I feel I gained more from it than the people I served did.”
WSU sophomore Paul Castleberry has spent the last two and a half years as a volunteer in the classrooms of West High School. He tutored students who were struggling academically because he identified with them.
When he was growing up, he said, he did not like school, especially high school. He only did the bare minimum to pass the class. When he realized he would need a degree to get a better job, he went to college and worked part time as a tutor. However, he enjoyed tutoring so much, that he donated additional hours for service.
Once he started seeing the difference he was making in other’s lives, he also started seeing the benefits in his own life. Since he started volunteering he has gone from a high school student who didn’t care about grades to a college student who gets scholarships.
“Serve others to serve yourself,” Castleberry said.
The benefits of volunteering are diverse. The World Volunteer Web website listed these benefits,among others: gaining different skills, connecting with your community and looking better to future employers. United Healthcare with VolunteerMatch conducted a 2010 survey, and found that volunteers have less stress, are healthier both physically and mentally and live better lives.
“Service opens … a window of opportunities. You’re able to see a much bigger world and make a difference in that world,” Moon said.
Madison Spainhower, a WSU sophomore, has volunteered in hospitals and went to Africa on service missions. Her experience has helped her realize how blessed she is. She also realized that one person can do so much for other people, and that one more volunteer can make a difference to so many.
On the other hand, some students feel they cannot spare the time for uncompensated labor. Parker Okabe, a WSU junior, works two jobs and goes to school. He said you have a choice you can get paid or you can volunteer.
“Working for free kindof sucks,” Okabe said.
The staff at the Community Involvement Center realizes some students have a predisposition against volunteering.
“If students will volunteer with an open heart and mind they will have an amazing experience,” Moon said.