For many students, community service is an important and major part of their educational experience, as well as life-enriching. Abbey Baird, Community Service and Service Learning Coordinator, talks briefly about the programs and unique opportunities that are present for students who volunteer:
As Community Service and Service Learning Coordinator you interact with many students who volunteer in the community. Do you think there is significant student involvement in service programs?
Definitely. I have been coordinator for two and half years and I have seen many students participating. There are also a lot of students that are volunteering that don’t go through our office that we are finding out about too.
Why is community service important?
Community service gives students the opportunity to get in the community, away from the Juniata bubble. It helps people in the local community and is a completely unique experience. For example, Habitat for Humanity is an organization where students are given the opportunity to build houses—something they might never have experienced otherwise. Community service can also be a fun, social experience where students can meet other people with similar interests.
How many and what kinds of service opportunities are present for students?
We have many programs; I will just list some of the major ones. There are three service trips each year that students can participate in, as well as our Bonner Leaders program which students start his/her sophomore year and commit to three years of service. We have an AmeriCorps program in which students complete 300, 450, or 900 hours of service, the organization Circle K which runs many events such as blood drives and Special Olympics, as well as Community Federal Work study in which students that qualify for work study can work out in the community rather than at Juniata. Lastly, we have a directory of agencies that students can find places that they are interested in.
What kind of impact can service projects make on the local community (what are its greatest needs)?
The Huntingdon area is a very rural community so there are a lot of small nonprofits. Student volunteers help and enable a small organization to get beyond the daily tasks. For example, organizations such as United Way or Big Brothers Big Sisters, are very low staffed and students can make a real impact when volunteering.
What is the greatest impact you have seen during your time here?
I think it has been continuing to work with same organizations and building relationships. When relationships are established it is much easier and more effective to know how to help them better. We have a one-credit Community Engagement course that we bring in the same agencies so they know groups of students and can utilize them more.
~ Joyce Eveleth ‘11, Juniata Online Journalist