I’ve worked in the CCE for one year plus six weeks to this point. Through the time spent in this office with the big green wall, I have shifted from being a student with some experience in volunteer work to an advocate for serving the community and the people that make it up.
I speak with students all the time about how they can get involved in Springfield and I can see it overwhelms them a bit. I know the look because I have made it several times. I remember making a similar face my freshman year as I sat through a mandatory meeting about volunteer hours for scholarships. I listened as there were countless ways to dive in listed off. It had never occurred to me that this community that I viewed as a temporary place of residence before I got my degree and got on with my life would have so much to offer in opportunities to learn and grow. I was overwhelmed because I thought these hours I had to complete would be painless, like much of the volunteer work I had done previously. Suddenly I was being encouraged to challenge myself and find a new passion!
Ignoring that challenge, I spent the majority of my first year looking for easy ways to find volunteer hours. I looked for on campus opportunities and one-time service days. I even applied to go on a Bear Breaks trip over Spring Break (mainly because I knew it would give me a lot of hours). That trip ended up being the best thing I did my entire freshman year as it is where I started to fall in love with service and the ability to build relationships through it.
I remember being overwhelmed during the trip when we were challenged to bring back our experience to make a difference in Springfield. I saw it as an insurmountable task, but I credit a beginning in my change in attitude to that trip. I started seeing solvable problems for the people in Springfield, rather than a laundry list of issues. I wasn’t completely cured of seeing these hours as a checkmark off my to-do list, but it would at least be a check mark I enjoyed.
In fact, I’m not sure I got over the to-do list mindset until I finished up the hours. After that, volunteer hours became service hours (a subtle but important difference). I started to serve at agencies where I felt there was a genuine need and the efforts were going toward an end goal that I was passionate about. And more importantly, instead of simply getting through the hours, I made efforts to learn from the community partners and fellow volunteers as I served next to them.
The point of all this is to challenge you to dive in. You could easily find volunteer hours or service hours around the Springfield area, but I encourage you to find the latter. If you ever need help, givepulse.com is chalk full of opportunities, and we would love to talk to you in the CCE. Just be warned, when you ask, “Where can I get service hours?” my response will not be, “There’s an opportunity in the PSU in two hours, but instead, “What do you enjoy doing?”
John Lang, Senior, Student Coordinator