It may sound cliche, but when students decide to volunteer their time and efforts to an organization or cause, they may feel as though they’ve gained at least as much as they’ve given. First and foremost, they’ll likely experience the confidence and contentment that comes with the knowledge that they’ve contributed to a worthwhile effort. Students can also glean some specific skills that relate to a future career, as well as some soft skills that can benefit them in any number of roles they’ll take on in the future. And, depending on the capacity in which they’ve served as volunteers, students may also develop a deeper sense of responsibility and compassion towards others in their community.
In their book Creating Career Success: A Flexible Plan for the World of Work, authors Francine Fabricant, Jennifer Miller, and Debra J. Stark extol many benefits of student volunteer activity. They write: “Getting involved in social causes that are truly important to you can be a great way to expand your network and forge authentic connections that lead to real relationships” (133). Additionally, they offer students some guidance for finding a volunteer opportunity that suits their interests and skills and enables them to build meaningful connections.
Students can begin their search in several ways. Fabricant, Miller, and Stark recommend that students could start at a website dedicated to volunteer efforts, such as United We Serve (serve.gov), where they’ll find numerous listings organized by location, cause, populations served, and other criteria. Typically, city and county websites also list volunteer jobs and positions; students may find opportunities to mentor youth, work in the library, serve as an aide at a museum, participate in cleanup efforts, and more. Additionally, students can review the websites of charitable organizations with which they’re already familiar; more than likely, the organization’s website will provide information on local chapters that offer opportunities for service. You could also suggest that students check with your school’s Student Affairs office for volunteer opportunities on and off campus. Last but not least: if you’re promoting the value of volunteering in your class, you might also consider supplying students with a list of volunteer opportunities that mesh with the knowledge, skills, and abilities they’re learning from your course.
When students have chosen a particular volunteer opportunity, the authors suggest that students share their decision with fellow classmates. Sharing their interest via social media also spreads the word among friends and family and can help form a network of people who share the same values and goals.
To facilitate this sharing among students, you may consider leading a discussion on this topic during class; or, if your course includes an online component, you could consider creating a space for this conversation on your class discussion board. Students can benefit from the discussion in many ways: they could find like-minded people, spread the word to others still seeking a volunteer role, and perhaps even discover a new interest or cause of interest to them. (Fabricant et al., 133)
Reference: Fabricant, Francine, Jennifer Miller, and Debra J. Stark. 2014. Creating Career Success: A Flexible Plan for the World of Work. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Do you know of a college student or students with plans to engage in a service project this Spring? Encourage them to enterCengageBrain.com’s Alternative Spring Break contest. For complete details, including rules, deadlines, and list of criteria for eligible projects, visit CengageBrain’s Facebook app for the Alternative Spring Break Contest. College students need to submit their service projects before February 14, 2014, so pass this along as soon as you can!