Service opportunities transform student experience

Members of the Honors Student Association fold boxes at a food pantry in New Orleans, Louisiana during their annual alternative spring break service trip. 

For students who would like to volunteer their time but don’t know how to find organizations or causes that are the right fit for them, there are many resources to help.

SIUE provides its students with a wide variety of opportunities to participate in community service projects both as individuals and within larger groups. These opportunities include Service Saturdays, Alternative Spring Breaks, the Food Recovery Network and more.

Carolyn Compton, the assistant director of community engagement at the Kimmel Student Involvement Center, said doing volunteer work is important for college students for a variety of reasons, including personal growth as well as bettering the community.

“I believe that service is a real cornerstone for developing leadership, for developing a sense of value and a sense of self,” Compton said. “I think that to be civically engaged is absolutely important in our society, and volunteering in your community helps you understand your community better, and it helps you establish roots.”

According to Compton, Service Saturdays are the most common service opportunities available to students. Compton said most Saturdays there are between one and three opportunities for students to volunteer at a variety of locations, including at farms, homeless shelters, food pantries and hospitals. 

For students who are looking for more individualized service experiences, Compton said the Kimmel Student Involvement Center works with a variety of organizations and can connect students to service projects that meet their interests.  

Some scholarships, programs and organizations require students to complete service hours. Among these are the Jonetta Haley Scholarship, which requires recipients to complete 12 service hours per semester, and the University Honors Program, which requires students to complete 50 service hours prior to graduation.

Alexandria Taylor, a sophomore biological science major from Lincoln, Illinois, helped organize volunteer opportunities for honors students as the Honors Student Association’s service committee chair. Taylor said she enjoys organizing service events because of the gratifying feeling she gets from helping others, and she believes volunteering helps people recognize their own privileges. 

“Many students grow up in environments where they don’t have to worry about food at home. They don’t have to worry about shelter or anything like that,” Taylor said. “So when you volunteer and you see these people that are lined up at soup kitchens or food pantries, it’s a very humbling feeling because you realize all the things that are given to you.”

Taylor said one of her best pieces of advice for individuals looking for a community service project is to ask those around them.

“There are volunteer opportunities that I didn’t know about that I learned about from other people,” Taylor said. “And there’s normally always something to get involved with. I would utilize all your resources.” 

In addition to scholarships and the honors program, Greek life organizations also require their members to complete community service hours. Members participate in events and raise funds for their organizations’ philanthropies and other chosen causes.

Jimmy DelVecchio, a junior applied communication studies major from Belleville, Illinois, previously acted as the Interfraternity Council’s vice president of community outreach and is their current vice president of public relations. According to DelVecchio, Greek life has exposed him to a lot of community service opportunities and causes he wouldn’t have known about otherwise. One such cause is the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which DelVecchio said has had a deep impact on his life.

“Last year, our organization, Sigma Tau Gamma, raised over $20,000 in an effort to give back to children who unfortunately get diagnosed with cancer,” DelVecchio said. “And our members in my fraternity, we shave our heads in solidarity and we show that we are in union with this cause, and being a part of something like that is something that I would’ve never, ever experienced if I wasn’t a member of Greek life.”

DelVecchio said he wants people to know that Greek life is about more than just the social aspect of these organizations.

“There’s a stereotype that people think when it comes to fraternities, but I know firsthand that being in this fraternity that I am, Sigma Tau Gamma, and being on the Interfraternity Council and seeing all the work that the fraternities and sororities do is actually incredible,” DelVecchio said. “The Greek life here at SIUE is not just about partying and a social image, it’s about giving back to our communities and building character through help those that need our help.”

Many organizations and programs that require students to complete service hours ask them to log these hours through SIUE’s Get Involved page. Compton said students should take the form seriously because it is checked before the service hours are approved.

“What I always tell people it’s important to remember is that there’s an actual person on the other side reading it, it’s not a computer that just automatically approves service hours,” Compton said. “When they’re doing their reflection in the space that asks for that, they need to actually think about the connection to experience and what it means to them and what it might mean to the community.”

Students who are looking for more information on volunteer opportunities can visit the Kimmel’s website, SIUE’s Get Involved page or visit the Kimmel for individualized guidance.

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