No ‘I’ in team, but definitely a ‘U’ in volunteer

Fallon-Renae Costa

Students of all educational majors can experience the benefits of volunteerism. The volunteer rate of the year ending in September 2011 rose 0.5 percentage points according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This has moved the percentage of volunteers total in America up to 2.6 percent. Students in their early twenties made up 19.4 percent of those who volunteered. And those with higher levels of education and a college degree made up 42.4 percent.

Since 2005 though, the number of students in college who volunteer has dropped. While those aged 35-54 have experienced an increase in the levels of volunteerism.

Volunteering gives students the chance to enhance their social life, build their resume, help others and themselves, and also learn skills that can’t be taught sitting in a classroom. People of all ages can gain experience through volunteering that can go towards a future job.

As Duane Oakes, MCC’s Director of the center for service learning and recreation faculty, put it, “you can’t walk into a school or a hospital and tell them, ‘I want to be a teacher or a nurse, give me a job.’ But you can go in and tell them your interest and that you want to volunteer.”

Why then is it that the number of volunteers is fading?

While some classes incorporate service learning within the curriculum, students can also apply to gain credits while volunteering their time through approved agencies.

“Service learning is equally on a level of learning and working,” said Oakes, who still to this day continues to volunteer his time. “I am a volunteer scout leader. You really do just feel good knowing you made a difference.”

Volunteering solves problems and improves lives, but also has health benefits to those donating their time.

According to a study done by the corporation for National and Community Service, those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functionality, and lower depressions rates.

Volunteerism strengthens communities and is one of the best ways to get involved in our government. Democracy is a government by the people.

This means that not only is power vested indirectly through chosen representatives, but directly through the people who exercise their power and get involved.  

“We are the government. Only we make it better. Volunteers are linked to everything,” said Oakes, “They are the foundation of democracy. If all the volunteers in America got on a boat and left for good what would happen?”

Volunteering also allows students to choose the right career path for themselves. Many students in college will choose a major and partially through their studies they realize that the major is not for them.

It helps people find something they are passionate about, and find natural gifts they may have.

When asked about financial rewards that can be gained while volunteering, Oakes remarked that many students don’t even know that they can gain rewards for the time they put forth.

AmeriCorps, one of the better known volunteer agencies in America, offers up to 2,775 dollars as an Education Award.

As Oakes puts it, “we need to be educating not just to have a good career. We need to educate to be a better citizen. If we don’t do that then we’re gonna be in trouble,”

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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