By Hunter Smith, a JCCC Honors Student, the Vice President of Service of Phi Theta Kappa, and a member of the Civic Leadership Program
Approximately 80% of college students work while attending school, add in family responsibilities and the additional stress of increased independence, and there is little free time (Huffington Post). The easiest, and most truthful answer, to the question “how are you?” from one student to the other, is “tired”. We are pushing ourselves. So, when the service learning department suggests adding more, it’s understandable that many students balk and refocus on the next deadline. However, focusing only on deadlines and the never-ending cycle of classwork leads to a sparse college resume and an empty inner life. Isolation – whether physically holing up in the library or SRC or MRC, or emotionally – is detrimental to a student’s well-being. Roughly one third of college students struggle with depression or anxiety (APA). Volunteering has been shown to improve both mental and physical health, by decreasing feelings of loneliness and lowering blood pressure (Harvard).
While some volunteer opportunities can be easy access for the student, group work at an animal shelter, or marching with a political candidate, these have not had the most impact on me, personally. The opportunities with the longest process, the most education, the greatest commitment, have allowed me to grow the most. For example, SafeHome is Johnson County’s domestic violence support system, advocacy group, and shelter. Their volunteer education process requires a background check, an interview, and an 8-hour educational training session. I spent over 50 hours as a volunteer there last semester, working in their (now defunct) clothes closet. I had the opportunity to be a part of something unique, impactful, and truly necessary in our community. Next month, I will participate in a weekend long educational training to become a MOCSA advocate after completing their 40-hour online training. MOCSA is Kansas City’s only rape survivor support and advocacy group. Volunteer positions like these take more: more time, more energy, more emotional involvement. But they give so much back in the personal growth you can achieve. It is worth it to take each and every opportunity, because you will be able to help so many more people, both now and in the future. Training at organizations like MOCSA and SafeHome develop sensitivity in anyone, but especially those individuals planning on working in healthcare, social work or education. So instead of considering it as an add-in, or an extra, community service is just as much a part of a college student’s week as a job or classes. It can have equal impact on their future.
“College Students’ Mental Health Is a Growing Concern, Survey Finds.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, June 2013, www.apa.org/monitor/2013/06/college-students.aspx.
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Watson, Stephanie. “Volunteering May Be
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