With busy class schedules and many working full or part-time jobs to support themselves, volunteering is often not at the top of students’ priority list because, in addition to prioritizing and planning, volunteering requires time.
Amanda Sevigny, a senior psychology major and vice captain of Westminster College’s Love Your Melon Campus Crew, said students might not volunteer because they are already budgeting time for the things that are important to them, such as school, family or work. To make it a priority, Sevigny suggested students find a way to donate their time to something they already enjoy doing.
“You can volunteer and simultaneously do things that you already like to do,” she said. “For those who may not have time or don’t find it pertinent to work it into your schedule, find opportunities that you are attracted to.”
For Madeline Gere, a graduate assistant in the Katherine W. Dumke Center for Civic Engagement, civic engagement and volunteering are integral parts of her day-to-day life.
“Civic engagement is kind of like a frame for volunteering,” she said. “It says, ‘This is my community, I care about my community, I live and I play in this community and I want to be a part of it by giving back.’”
But for many, volunteering isn’t just a way of giving back but is also a way to improve their résumé or get school credit.
“People probably volunteer more often than not to say that they volunteer, which is kind of sad,” said Brendan McKelvy, a junior marketing major and the president of Westminster’s Rotaract Club. “But I feel like it is reinforced that it’s going to build your résumé and this is why you should do it. It does make you more attractive if an employer is interviewing you, but that should not be the first thing that comes out of your mouth.”
Julie Tille, Westminster’s director for student engagement, said that even if students intend their volunteer work to meet a requirement or to boost their résumé, the outcome is still beneficial for all parties.
“Even if it’s forced being in a setting, awareness and learning is going to happen and that’s what we want,” Tille said. “It helps to at least challenge students to try something new, to learn something from that… They might not continue it, but they’re going to take from that experience more information and much bigger awareness of the community.”
Sevigny said she hopes students who volunteer for the credit choose something they’re excited to pursue.
“If you are volunteering for credit, those hours shouldn’t just be wherever is most convenient for you,” she said. “Challenge yourself to find something that’s relevant to what you like or don’t like. If you are interested in something you want to learn more about, volunteer there.”
Looking forward, Sevigny said she hopes the conversation about volunteering shifts.
“I think a lot of people’s perception of volunteering is, ‘Oh I have to volunteer at this,’” she said. “I really hope volunteering someday becomes something that people want to do and get excited to do”
Through the Center for Civic Engagement, students can apply for programs to receive a budget and/or an hourly compensation to partner with an organization in the community for the semester — an effort to remove financial barriers and make it easier for students to give back.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve been really fortunate to have more financial resources and we’ve really tried to utilize those resources to help students get paid for this work,” Tille said.
Through efforts to alleviate this financial burden, both Gere and Tille said they hope more students will become engaged in the community.
“I think sometimes there’s a mental disconnect between seeing yourself in the community and then seeing yourself as someone who should support your community,” Gere said. “The Dumke Center wants to help students understand that as community members, it’s our role and our responsibility to support our community.”