How Volunteering Has Changed My Life

As college students, we are often unaware of our impact on our campuses. Boston seems like a big city that we, as college students, can’t have any effect on as individuals. But, this is not the case. Twenty percent of Boston’s population are students, and we have a huge economic and social impact on the city. Unfortunately, with all of the good things that college students bring, we can also contribute to negative outcomes for the city. Gentrification, pollution, and displacement of the local workforce are all exacerbated by a high student population. In order to mitigate these effects, all college students should be volunteering in a conscious way. 

Photo credit: Realty Lords

My own experience with volunteering began during my sophomore year of high school. Like many people, I did not start doing community service with the right mindset: I wanted to get a service award from my school by doing 80 hours of volunteering. Initially, I expected to complete the 80 hours, do my senior requirement of 15 hours, and not volunteer outside of that. Of course, that is not what happened.

I completed most of my hours with two community partners: during the school year, I served at a local tutoring program for elementary school students living in local public housing. Then over the summer, I volunteered in the children’s room of my local public library. Not long after starting with these two services I fell in love with them. At the library, I was able to help local kids discover a love of books through the summer reading program. I ended up doing more hours than I needed because I loved it so much. Working as a tutor made me truly humble and I gained a newfound level of respect for the students I was working with.

This also educated me on a lot of social issues and how those impact my hometown, specifically the achievement gap. Because of these broader social problems, I realized that a single volunteer could never solve a community issue, but one volunteer could make a difference in another person’s life. What started out as just me wanting to fulfill requirements ended up enlightening me and allowing me to discover passions I didn’t know I possessed.

Photo credit: centralmaine.com 

Thanks to these experiences I made sure to make community service a priority when coming to college. I started my BU experience by doing FYSOP, through which I learned so much about the people and history of Boston and the issues impacting the city today. During my first semester, I also rushed Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed community service fraternity. Through this organization, I get to volunteer for 25 hours every semester with different community partners throughout the city. Over my semester and a half with APO so far, I have served food at a black-tie gala supporting an organization that gives homeless children birthday parties, cleaned trails at a nature preserve in Mattapan, packaged books to send to inmates across the country, and many more fun and incredibly rewarding experiences. At the same time, I have learned how to have a better attitude going into service: specifically, how to avoid getting a savior complex and how to recognize intersectional problems. Along the way, I also have made some of the best friends of my time at college. 

Photo credit: WBUR

Ultimately, as long as you are self-aware and eager to help in any way you can, going into community service can only benefit you. You will learn a lot about the city that you live in, community issues, and possible solutions to those issues. The best part is that you will learn all of this from the community members themselves who deal with these problems every day. In addition to this, you will also learn a lot about yourself.

 

Community service can prepare you for a future career, and make you into a better leader, a more informed citizen, and a better listener and empathizer. At BU, you can start by joining one of the many volunteer groups on campus or by heading up to the CSC to see where you can help. It will make you and the world around you better. 

 

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