A file photo from last year’s USA WEEKEND Make a Difference Day at a volunteer project at J.C. Nalle Elementary School in Washington, D.C.
Most college students live for Saturday and the chance to sleep in, go to a football game, catch up on studies or just hang out with friends. But this Saturday, students across the nation will be picking up paintbrushes, planting trees and serving the homeless as active participants in Make A Difference Day.
For more than 20 years, USA WEEKEND and Points of Light have sponsored Make A Difference Day, an epic event of volunteerism held on the fourth Saturday of October.
“We help connect people to opportunities to give back to their communities,” said Anne O’Neill, vice president of communications at Points of Light.
Motivating college students into action is a strategic part of this year’s effort, and it is the goal of a competition called the College Service Challenge. By registering service projects and demonstrating the results of their volunteerism, accredited institutions are eligible to win a $10,000 grant and a featured spot in USA WEEKEND.
More than 135 students, instructors and faculty at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., will take part in Make A Difference Day. The school has participated for more than 10 years, but winning the challenge has not even crossed its participants’ minds.
“One of the reasons why our college has made this a priority is because it’s such a successful way for our students to better understand Walla Walla and East Washington,” said Noah Leavitt, assistant dean for student engagement. “It really does generate this enormous level of excitement about giving back to a community where our students have chosen to get an undergraduate education.”
Currently, 87% of Whitman freshmen were involved in community service before college.
Colleges like Whitman put a premium on community involvement as they review high school resumes, but once students get to college, their busy lifestyles can make volunteerism more challenging.
Make a Difference Day is a good and manageable way to remind students about the importance of giving back, said Abby Juhasz, community service coordinator at Whitman. The school has partnered with local non-profit organizations to support 14 service projects this Saturday.
Juhasz said that students recognize volunteerism as an opportunity to “become not only active, involved members of their community, but it’s a chance for them to explore their interests and talents.”
Junior Michaela Lambert, 20, said her volunteering experience at Whitman is shaping her career goals. During high school and college, the biology student has volunteered to help people living with disabilities. Now, she is considering a career in occupational therapy.
As resident assistant of the community service house at Whitman, Lambert runs The Buddy Project, which works to connect students with adults who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.
On Saturday, she will lead a project to plant flowers at the apartment complex where many of these adults live.
This will be Lambert’s first Make A Difference Day. She said she is proud to be part of a student body that is uniting to make a real impact on the lives of others.
“I think it’s really easy to get stuck in the college bubble. You’re so focused on academic work and friends and other campus activities that it’s hard to see outside of school,” she said.
Making the effort to get involved in charitable work has its rewards, Lambert said, and it really doesn’t take that much time.
“We’re working only a few minutes away from campus, which is really neat. And we’re working with people in this community who have given so much to our school and to all of the projects that we do in class, so it only makes sense to give back and realize that there’s so much more of a world outside of our college that we get to interact with,” she said.
Students still looking for volunteer opportunities in their community can visit the Make A Difference Day Daytabank.
Powered by Facebook Comments