Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Everyone Should Volunteer in College

This finals week I was plagued by two exams, two ten page papers, and one 20 page paper. The word "stressed" doesn't really cover it. I had done okay my first three semesters at school, but this was supposed to be the semester that I really excelled. I spent countless hours in the library, even pulling the occasional all nighter. Despite the stress and the time consuming studying and writing, I still made time to head down to the Eastern Service Workers Association in Rochester to help distribute food to families in need on Friday morning before my finals. I was agitated on the car ride there, stressed about my impending exams, but when I got there, I didn't even notice. I was greeted in the front of the ESWA by Miss Alma, the sassy, always sparkly dressed elderly African American woman who often helped out around the office. Her friendly hello and earnest interest in how my studies were going instantly melted the stress away. I then spent about two hours in the benefit office working to get food distributed into boxes to send out to the families on the distribution list. 

All in all the trip took about two and a half hours of my study time. When we got the boxes sorted I took off, back to the library to cram for my two tests. Not only did this study break significantly decrease my stress level, but it also helped me to realize that finals are just finals, some things are more important. Sometimes, we need to put other people before ourselves for the greater good (I still ended up with the best GPA I have had all of college this semester). 

The reason I started with this story is to demonstrate that with time management, the stress of college and the effort we put into our studies is manageable. Even if you think you are the most busy student out there, I guarantee you have time to help other people for a few hours a semester. I think that as college students we get so caught up in feeling busy and in our campus culture that we forget about what is going on right outside our bubble. 

It costs approximately $60,000 a year to attend the University of Rochester at full price, and there are people who live just a few blocks away from the campus that raise families on less than half of that amount for a whole years worth of wages. The campus is a bubble, and it is easy to forget that there are people just outside our door that could use our help. 

I'm an athlete, I'm on the executive board of my sorority, I have a job, and I take a full course load. Even with all this on my plate, I volunteer at least once if not twice a week at the ESWA, a local organization that helps low income workers in the urban Rochester community. I don't say this to boast, I merely mean to demonstrate that even if you think you're busy, and I'm sure you are, if something is important enough to you, you will find the time. 

I think volunteering is that important. I believe that as transient visitors in a community we have the responsibility to give something back. I think that as privileged college students we have the responsibility to contribute to the welfare of those less fortunate than ourselves. I think it is important that everyone gets to experience the community they live in and to really understand the socioeconomic spectrum that is present throughout the country. Not only does volunteering help the community, but it is really humbling to work with some of the best people I have met in my life. There are people that need and deserve our help, and it has really been an honor to get to work with some them for the past 9 months. Making the time for people who need it makes me feel better about myself, and makes me feel like I'm making a difference. Everyone can make time to get involved even if it is just a few times a semester, we just collectively as a group of collegians need to make it a priority to start making a difference in our communities.  

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