Community service is more than donating a couple hours of the weekend – volunteering has the ability to make a real difference.
The University of Idaho should do more to encourage students to give back to their community, either on or off campus.
It”s often said that life-long volunteers would never have started volunteering if their first efforts at community service had not been required of them.
Mandated community service is more common in high school. In college, students tend to get wrapped up in all of their other responsibilities, so they don”t make time for volunteering.
There are many reasons why students don”t volunteer, or only volunteer minimally, and many of them are usually understandable and are related to the balancing act of life and college.
But volunteering is a worthwhile experience. Perhaps if UI students were required to complete a certain number of hours in community service before graduating, more Vandals would realize the value of giving back.
Finding the right number of hours to require for volunteering would take some work. It would need to be a long enough requirement to make the time worthwhile, but it also couldn”t be too big of a burden on students.
It”s also easy to assume that there are not many options to volunteer in such a small community, but that is far from the truth. UI”s Center for Volunteerism and Social Action keeps track of and sponsors dozens of volunteer opportunities inside and outside of UI each month.
Alternative Service Breaks are perhaps one of the most visible opportunities for service. Within the Moscow community, there are volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, the food bank at the Community Action Center and the Human Society of the Palouse, just to name a few.
Those within the Greek community have specific guidelines for service hours already established.
Implementing university-wide community service requirements would not be a one-step task. It would take some work, but the benefits could outweigh the cost.
A university should of course prepare students for their future career, but it should also teach them how to benefit to society in other ways.
Forcing students to show up for an event they care little about is not likely to instill values of service in them. However, providing students with information on various opportunities and helping them pick an organization they are interested in could increase both their willingness to volunteer and the likelihood of them continuing to volunteer.
Opportunities are all around, but sometimes students need a little push.
When someone sees the difference they are making in a community or in the life of just one individual, it”s hard to ignore and everyone benefits.
There are people struggling in Moscow and around the Palouse, as there are in communities all over the world. Starting the habit of volunteering in college could lead to better communities and lives everywhere, just because of students who truly care.