Local organizers notice positive impact of volunteering community, students

Charlotte Lang

Volunteering isn’t just good for the community — it’s good for the volunteers.

Organizations such as United Way of Larimer County and Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement offer opportunities for students to get involved in volunteering, and both have noticed a positive impact on the community and the student volunteers.

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I’ve seen students develop a greater sense of community, belonging and friendship. I’ve seen students grow in skills and confidence.”

Jen Johnson, assistant director for SLiCE

The United Way provides information about volunteer opportunities by partnering with SLiCE and The Coloradoan to publish the Volunteer Resource Guide each year. This guide provides details on the types of volunteer opportunities with organizations through the community and can be found in the SLiCE office.

According to the 2018-19 guide, “programs and partnerships focus on increasing volunteerism, collaboration across sectors, creating a pipeline of civic leaders and business engagement with the community.”

Jen Johnson, assistant director for SLiCE, said that SLiCE has three main functional arms: community engagement, leadership and involvement.

While there’s some overlap in the areas, Johnson said that volunteering falls in the community engagement category and makes up a third of the SLiCE department.

Volunteer opportunities include one-day events such as CSUnity and Cans Around the Oval, as well as longer opportunities such as Alternative Spring Break.

“We have thousands of students volunteer in all sorts of different programs,” Johnson said. “There is a huge variety of things students like doing, and this mostly depends on their interests. Students volunteer with children, people with disabilities, elderly people, environmental projects and animals, to name a few.”

Amanda Sammartino, director of marketing and engagement for the United Way, said that volunteering is a great way for college students to expand their experience, build their resumes and connect with their community.

“In addition to internships, volunteering can help students explore their interests in a low-risk way and help determine what might be the best career move for them in the future,” Sammartino said. “Additionally, many student clubs and organizations require volunteer service, which is another reason many students get involved with our community.”

Sammartino said that exposure to large-scale needs is an important component of learning to think critically and can be a valuable aspect of a college education.

Alongside possible advantages to the volunteers, students can also benefit the organization they’re volunteering with, Sammartino said.

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“College volunteers can provide a fresh perspective to projects in need of completion,” Sammartino said. “They often have a different lens on the use of technology or other approaches that can help accomplish a project more effectively.”

Sammartino said in addition to meeting the needs of area non-profits, community engagement is an important component of citizenship.

“The intangible benefits alone — such as pride, satisfaction and accomplishment — are worthwhile reasons to serve,” Sammartino said.

Studies over the past two decades have indicated that volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones, Sammartino said. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer, Sammartino said.

Johnson said students are motivated to volunteer because they feel a desire to contribute to something larger.

Volunteering is also a great way to learn more about personal or academic interest, Johnson said. Students also seem to enjoy volunteering in groups or with peers.

“All volunteers in a community are valuable,” Johnson said. “I think the passion, enthusiasm and positive attitudes of college students make them a particularly valuable and fun volunteer group to work with.”

Like Sammartino, Johnson has noticed students experiencing positive results from their volunteering.

“I’ve seen students gain clarity on things like personal purpose and academic major,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen students develop a greater sense of community, belonging and friendship. I’ve seen students grow in skills and confidence.”

Students wanting to volunteer can stop by the SLiCE office to get set up with an activity that matches their interests and needs, Johnson said.

“We look for motivated, passionate people, but even if a student doesn’t know what they want to do, they just want to get involved, we can help them,” Johnson said.

Charlotte Lang can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.