The Volunteer and Community Service Center. Photo By Hannah Burgess.
Have you thought of volunteering but instead chose to watch Netflix? If you are like me as a student, I answered yes to the previous question. While reflecting on my time at Lawrence University now as an alumni and employee of the Volunteer Center (VCSC), I wish I would have spent more time in the physical space of the VCSC and used its resources. It would have been much more fulfilling than Netflix binging in a dark dorm room, eating a subpar quesadilla. My hope is over the course of this term, you avoid making the same mistake. Find the motivation to come out of your room or take a break from the Lawrence ‘busy culture’ to come hang out in the volunteer center, and choose volunteering over Netflix! Our series in The Lawrentian will begin with me sharing key things I wish I would have done or known as a student.
Location, Location, Location
I knew that the VCSC was located in the back of the library by the Wriston Art Center. Why didn’t I go? To be honest, I was more concerned about getting a perfect GPA and less concerned about having experiences. Now, I wish I would have approached this in the opposite manner.
Employers and graduate schools often value experiences as much as they do GPA. Other reasons to visit the VCSC include the friendly people, chocolate and comfy chairs. I would often hide out in Briggs to study, but now I wish I would have studied in the VCSC. It is not only quiet and close to food, but also a place for connections to be made. It is a great space to hold club and organization meetings.
Like any Lawrentian, I was always busy and very concerned about grades. I always heard the repetitive speech of how volunteering was good for your health, but I immediately contradicted the statement.
I felt that adding one more thing to do during the week would increase stress and decrease my overall health. Now I understand that volunteer activities provide people with a sense of purpose and accomplishment, which can be a buffer for stress. I was a VITAL tutor my sophomore year but stopped my junior year because I felt my life was too busy.
I wish I would have continued to be a tutor my junior and senior year, instead of retreating to Netflix. Seeing the smile on my tutee’s face when he understood a math problem was much more fulfilling. I remember that smile much more than an episode on Netflix.
Future Goals and Career
I knew I wanted a career in the medical field but I only thought of volunteering in a hospital or clinic. The VCSC focuses on seven areas of volunteering. I now see how the experiences and skills gained from volunteering in any area, even if it didn’t have medicine directly in the title, was important.
This can go for any career. One alumni reflected on her time at Lawrence University and captured the influence volunteering has had on her:
“I entered as a freshman convinced I’d graduate in political science and anthropology, then double majored in gender studies and religion. I’m sure my experiences with PAW – seeing firsthand how little it takes to truly impact a life—influenced my decision to enter social work. My friends wanted a club, and wanted me to lead it. I didn’t actually want to join, but figured it couldn’t hurt to try. This was arguably one of the most important aspects of my freshman year and college career. Working with the animals helped keep me sane and reminded me there was a world beyond academics. I also learned a lot about nonverbal communication, how to form a trust bond quickly, and the basics of nonprofit fundraising.”
I hope this gives you some motivation to utilize the volunteer center and not fall into the same trap I did. Grades are important, but experiences are what you will remember. Come hang out with us in the VCSC and, more importantly, volunteer!