Lawrence honored for voluteer service

Brianna Stapleton

Lawrence University was recently honored with a spot on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The distinction is awarded by the Corporation for National and Community Service and is the highest federal recognition that a university can achieve for its community service efforts.
528 schools throughout the nation made the Community Service Honor Roll. Several other schools in Wisconsin also achieved the honor, including Alverno College, Ripon College, and UW-Parkside. Lawrence’s commitment to service learning was evaluated based on the scope of service projects, percentage of student participation, and incentives for service.
Lawrence has been very committed to service learning in the past few years. The Volunteer and Community Service Center is a student-run office and a new Office of Community Engagement was established this year.
Unique programs such as ArtsBridge, LARY Buddies, and VITAL tutoring, along with a 46 percent rate of student service involvement, help Lawrence stand out among other higher educational institutions.
Kristi Hill, the Coordinator of Internships and Volunteer Programs, believes that community service can enhance the Lawrence educational experience. “Students are doing a disservice to themselves by thinking that everything they can learn is on the Lawrence campus,” said Hill.
She noted that the Lawrence lifestyle keeps students very, very busy — but there are still volunteer opportunities with minimal time commitment available to those with a packed schedule. Hill suggested that busy students who wish to volunteer should look into the Saturdays of Service, a once-a-month opportunity. “We do all of the planning — students just have to sign up and be present,” said Hill.
The Volunteer Center also offers a database of opportunities within one mile of the campus, so even students without a vehicle can interact with the Appleton community.
Senior Nicki Dabney, coordinator of the VITAL tutoring program, was excited about the Community Service Honor Roll distinction.
“Many schools larger than Lawrence do not have volunteer centers, and here we are a school of 1400 students with an amazing program,” said Dabney. Lawrentians involved in VITAL tutoring meet weekly with K-12 students at the Mudd Library to work on a variety of subjects.
Currently, there are Lawrence students tutoring in French, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, English literature, calculus, geometry, biology, viola, and more. “I am amazed sometimes that we can find Lawrence students to fill these requests,” said Dabney. Through VITAL, Dabney has observed the tutees feeling more confident in their work and the Lawrence tutors building communication skills.
The LARY Buddy program was also recognized in the honor roll distinction. LARY Buddies are at-risk youth from Edison Elementary who meet weekly with a Lawrence student.
Lawrence buddies also go above and beyond to take their young buddies to activities outside of school, like a day at the park or an event on the Lawrence campus. Junior Marissa Mastel, coordinator of the LARY Buddy program, believes that the benefits extend further than to just the one young buddy.
“All the kids, even the ones without LARY Buddies, love it when Lawrence students are in the classroom,” said Mastel. As Mastel reflected on the benefits of the volunteering experience, she stated that “it gives you perspective on your life” and overall can be a very rewarding and fun experience.
What does the Community Service Honor Roll distinction mean for the future of service learning at Lawrence?
“I hope that our position on the Community Service Honor Roll will both inspire faculty to promote and instigate even more service-learning projects, and encourage more students to join their peers in serving the community in which they live,” said senior Samantha Gibb, the Chair of Promotions for the Volunteer Center.
She believes that the current spirit of volunteerism at Lawrence assures the Appleton community that college students in 2008 are ready and willing to serve their communities and will continue to do so after they graduate.
Gibb believes that the honor roll award is not a signal to sit back and enjoy what Lawrence has accomplished, but instead should serve as motivation for the future.
Said Gibb, “Now that we have been recognized as a college that engages students in service activities and promotes long-term involvement in our community, we should not only live up to this honor, but strive to do even more.