Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Students find many benefits in volunteering

Graduate+student+and+Saluki+basketball+guard+Jovan+Stulic+helps+support+the+community+by+picking+up+trash+in+the+local+neighborhoods+Sept.+13%2C+2023+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.+Nicole+Fox+%7C+%40fox.flicks+
Nicole Fox
Graduate student and Saluki basketball guard Jovan Stulic helps support the community by picking up trash in the local neighborhoods Sept. 13, 2023 in Carbondale, Illinois. Nicole Fox | @fox.flicks

While oftentimes overlooked, one of the most impactful things that college students can do to better themselves and their community during their time at school is volunteer.

Hundreds of SIU students contribute their time and effort to various causes during every school year, and the administration notices.

SIU wants its students to be involved, both inside and outside the classroom, and volunteering provides an extensive outlet to do so.   As such, many students are required to complete and track volunteer hours, whether it is for an organization they are a part of, an aspect of a scholarship or a requirement set forth in a class.

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Aimee Lemrise, SIU’s sustainability director, noted that the college experience goes beyond just academics.

“Going to college is much more than just pursuing a career. It is about serving the community in ways that fulfill an individual’s core values,” she said.

Lemrise said SIU recognizes the value of serving the surrounding community.

“The larger community is an extension of the university and can be seen as a sustainability classroom where students can engage in issues and initiatives within the community,” she said.

Engagement outside of the classroom can also help students develop an appreciation for the area they’re living in.

“Having a sense of community will strengthen student’s connections to the region and give a sense of belonging,” Lemrise said.

Cami Horn, the social services manager for the Marion branch of the Salvation Army, agrees that volunteering can help grow a bond between students and the place they live.

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“It’s just more of a sense of community.  And I think now, more than ever, our communities really need to get smaller so that they can get healthy,” Horn said.

One reason that many students may not volunteer is because they are unaware that opportunities exist or they don’t know how to find the things that they’re interested in.

According to Lemrise, finding a cause that matters personally may not be as hard as one thinks.

“It’s a very easy process; students can search by topic, such as ‘sustainability volunteer opportunities’ and retrieve a list that matches their interests,” Lemrise said.

The Saluki Volunteer Portal can help. Dozens of causes and organizations covering a broad scope of interests maintain profiles, meaning that most people will be able to find something that appeals to them.

Opportunities are also often available through Registered Student Organizations. One organization, the Saluki Ambassadors, gives campus tours to potential new students. Gael Espriella, an ambassador, sees many benefits from volunteering his time for tours.

“You just definitely have so many great experiences like public speaking, really being on top of the facts of the school and knowing your history, and just really showing your pride for the university,” he said.

Espriella also mentioned increased time management and communication skills as benefits he has received from being a saluki ambassador.

Will Frey, a biochem major, found an opportunity to volunteer with an organization called Gum Drops through another RSO, the Pre Health Club.

“I decided to volunteer because it was offered through one of my RSO’s, and I thought it was a good cause,” Frey said.

He thinks there are several benefits to volunteering.

“It forces you to do something purely beneficial for someone else within the community,” he said.  “I usually leave volunteering feeling good knowing I’m helping someone in need, and often am reminded of just how fortunate I am.”

Frey said that he has “made a lot of friends” at volunteer events.  Espriella agrees that volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially unexpected ones.

“[Volunteering]’s your opportunity to meet new people… you never know what’s going to come from it,” Espriella said. “On top of that, the networking opportunities are insane.  That’s how you meet the higher officials of the school, and the more they see you, they’re going to know your name eventually.”

Lemrise further notes the networking potential, saying “everyone students meet could be a potential contact to help their career path.”

She also touches on other important aspects of student volunteering.

“It’s important to volunteer to get hands-on experience and exposure to various professions which could possibly help a student discover their calling in life,” Lemrise said.

There are even benefits to be had outside of the professional scope, too.

“Volunteering can be good for mental, emotional, and physical health… it helps build a greater sense of personal efficacy, personal identity, and usually involves physical activities,” Lemrise said.

SIU Students gather together to help clean up the community Sept. 13, 2023 in Carbondale, Illinois. Nicole Fox | @fox.flicks

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