The Volunteer Spirit: Alive and Well at NH’s Community Colleges
Whether it’s installing a new air conditioning system for veterans, collecting gently worn shoes for startup businesses in developing countries or spending time at a local animal shelter, students at New Hampshire’s Community Colleges are doing more than focusing solely on their classes.
“We have seen a large increase in volunteer participation in the past few years,” says Sara Lang, Student Life assistant at Great Bay Community College. “There is a core group of students, faculty and staff that know about our volunteer efforts…We are working to see that the word spreads more each year.”
Volunteering Has No Boundaries
Students are making a difference at home and abroad.
At Manchester Community College, for instance, members of the HVAC Club recently volunteered to install an air conditioning system at Liberty House in Manchester, which supports veterans transitioning from homelessness. The club also installed a heating system for Liberty House two years ago. Meanwhile, the Global Citizens Club is partnering with Peace Corps on a nine-day trip to Ecuador in January to address water issues and bring clothing and supplies to indigenous villages in the high mountains.
“When students get involved, they get a sense of pride helping other people. They also build connections with each other, the college and the community,” says Kaitlin Moody, Student Life Coordinator at NHTI, Concord’s Community College.
Groups of socially aware and active students can be found throughout New Hampshire’s Community Colleges. Here are just a few examples:
Great Bay Community College:
Volunteer opportunities for students include the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Operation Blessing and the Greenleaf Rec Center. In past years, students have also organized a charity yard sale to benefit the New Hampshire SPCA.
Ken Stanley was recently recognized with Great Bay’s 100 Hour Club Award for completing 200 hours of community service. A 25-year military veteran who served in Iraq, Stanley volunteers at the VA Medical Center in Manchester and the New Hampshire Vet to Vet in Rochester.
Nashua Community College:
Members of Rotaract, a Rotary Club program for ages 18-30, volunteer sprucing up gardens and helping children with their homework at the Nashua Boys and Girls Club, working at the Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk and volunteering at the Nashua Senior Center. During winter break, eight students will travel to the Give Kids the World Village in Florida to work as volunteers.
River Valley Community College:
Students built a ramp at the home of a 73-year-old classmate who was unable to walk following an operation on his leg. Members of the college’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society asked fellow students to join them by pledging to take action against domestic violence as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
Manchester Community College:
Students are working to collect 2,500 pairs of gently worn shoes to send to entrepreneurs in developing countries to help start micro businesses. The collection will also raise money to fund a medical mission trip to Ecuador.
“MCC encourages students to get involved in the community, to learn about the social issues which we all wrestle with as citizens, and to better understand real-world problems and see what they can do to solve those,” says Aileen Clay, Student Life director. “By working in teams, they develop their communication and problem-solving skills.”
Lakes Region Community College:
A joint project between the CARE Society (Compassionate Advocates for Reform and Empowerment), the Student Senate, the Bennett Library Club and Phi Theta Kappa is raising money for the Salvation Army through participation in the annual Salvation Army Turkey Plunge.
“This community initiative will help feed those less fortunate around the holidays,” says Linda Ferruolo, CARE Society advisor. “My hope is that the students will see a real value in giving back to the community.”
Students have engaged in nearly 350 recorded hours of volunteer service since August. “And there are many more hours being given that we don’t always hear about,” Moody says.
NHTI recently recognized Kate Andritz with the Institute Leadership Award, presented to a student whose extraordinary contributions to the academic and social mission of the college has benefited the community. She is currently helping organize a trip by the Alternate Spring Break Club to aid the hurricane relief effort in Houston.
Andritz and the club are also involved with local efforts, such as the Pope Memorial SPCA of Concord, the Boys and Girls Club of America and Families in Transition.
Understanding what is Important
The meaning of being a part of the community in which they live and go to school is something students learn quickly. During student orientation at Great Bay, Lang stresses the rewards of volunteering.
“[They are] going to realize that they selflessly helped someone or some group and it didn’t cost anything but a few hours of time,” she says.