Community service reaps rewards

by Olivia Litsey, Assistant Features Editor

Student Life and Leadership at San Diego State recently began online reporting for community service hours. Meant for student usage, this is done by means of logging hours they spend performing community service as an individual or as part of an organization. Students who log 100 hours of community service on the SLL website are eligible to receive a community service certificate.

“We were really happy; we had over 44,000 hours reported the last academic year,” Assistant Student Life Adviser Chelsea Winer said. “Our goal was around 30,000 because that would be an average of every student reporting one hour.”

A list of the most popular organizations SDSU students are involved in is also provided on the website, including San Diego Food Bank and the American Cancer Society.  Many of the student organizations listed in the “Service and Support” category of Recognized Student Organizations on the SLL website provide opportunities for students to serve as volunteers in the community as well.

According to the SLL website, involvement in community service leads to the improvement of learning, personal and professional skills. Winer mentioned time management and communication skills in particular as areas that are likely to be improved upon with volunteer involvement.

Obtaining these skills seems to be an added bonus rather than the direct focus of current SDSU students who are active volunteers.

Two general service and support organizations that focus heavily on community service at SDSU are Rotaract and Circle K. Communications junior Grace Diaz is the vice president of memoirs for Rotaract. She said one the most rewarding aspects of being a volunteer is the interpersonal relationships that she is able to establish with those the club reaches out to.

She spoke of one volunteering experience with Rotaract in which she was working in a garden to help create area for meditation at a rehabilitation center for teens. She recalled that one of the inhabitants of the center was especially thankful.

“She was literally crying,” Diaz said. “It was so touching. That’s been one of my favorite experiences, just creating relationships.”

Communications junior Melissa Farlow, the vice president of administration for Circle K, has found value in the relationships she has established with her fellow club members, with whom she has been able to bond over similar interests and lifestyle choices.

“Giving back with them—it’s something that (we) do,” Farlow said. “Like you would go hang out with your friends at the mall, we do community service.”

A.S. President and finance senior Jonathan Cole, a recipient of the SLL community service certificate, has had been committed to community service for his whole life. As a student at SDSU, Cole has noticed that participating in volunteering events increases awareness of issues that deteriorate the local community. In one instance, he worked on an Aztec Unity Project that focused on cleaning up the San Diego River.

“Almost all the people participating in our event had no idea that drug abuse and homelessness were huge issues in the local area,” Cole said. “So in that event, not only did we serve the community, but we also developed awareness (of) issues that are going on. And, as college students, how we can get more involved and prevent that.”

A second recipient of the certificate, psychology senior Matt Alegria, has participated in events such as a service trip to Kenya with YoungLife San Diego State, building houses for the needy in Mexico with Amor Ministries, and feeding the homeless downtown with Embrace. He feels that community service is complementary to the lifestyle if a college student.

“In my eyes, it’s invaluable as far as life experience,” Alegria said. “You come to college to gain experience, to explore the world, to go outside of your comfort zone and realize your boundaries in a lot of ways.  I think community service and being open to serving others is essential in that process.”