It is embarrassing to admit just how many times I jotted down service hours!! in my high school agenda to remind me of something I constantly made my last priority; I saw service work as a tedious burden. My perception of volunteer roles evolved when I joined Aim4 at William & Mary, and the idea solidified upon completion of a class on the importance of active citizenship (EDUC 400: Community Engagement in Context). I was once a passive volunteer who had a nasty habit of glancing at the clock, and longed for the end of my volunteer shift, just to get another few hours signed off on my community service log. Now, I am proud to say that I am working towards becoming an active citizen who asks why, and tries to find innovative solution to social injustices.
I remember my first community service involvement, it is a special day before classes start, known as SHOW day, and that is where I participated in my first service orientated project as a college student. What was the task you ask? Painting a fence for a pasture of dead grass – my favorite. At the time, I did not realize why I was assigned to do this, as I had a desire to make an impact, and see positive change, yet I had trouble envisioning how my fence painting would benefit the community.
A few months had passed, and through my biweekly sessions with Aim4 I was able to better understand the role of a volunteer as I know it today. I reflected on my experience, and the entry is shared below:
I still remember sitting on the grass with paint dripping all over my legs, and thinking, “am I really painting a fence right now”. This is why reflections are so important! While I might still joke around about painting a fence was one of the “silliest” community service events, I am SO happy that I showed up to SHOW Day. The whole point of the program is to Help Out Williamsburg (the ‘HOW’ of SHOW) and I can only think of a few other examples that better exemplify how devoted William & Mary students are to serving their community. There might have only been a handful of us helping out, but that’s the handful that Williamsburg got to see, and I believe that’s the best part. I was offered an internship opportunity by one of the Colonial Williamsburg managers, and, of course, the people were so great to work with, so I would do something like this again for years to come.
After getting involved with SHOW day, I wanted to learn more about on-campus organizations that serve the local community. I decided to join a cooking based service organization, and I am proud that I was able to devote the majority of my time to Campus Kitchens. This organization provided 40-60 meals twice a week to low-income families throughout Williamsburg (not including college students – haha). I love working in the kitchen, and the lack of being able to do so in college incentivized me to study for the SafeServ exam, and lead cooking shifts. My work has allowed me to join the executive board as Cooking Chair where I help manage the shift leaders, volunteer stats, and ensure we are never out of gloves, hair nets, and other necessities.
From the Farmers Market, to helping tutor students at nearby elementary schools, to Campus Kitchens which is the non-profit I work with, the possibilities to volunteer around Williamsburg are endless. I suggest all students consider volunteering with SHOW day as that will give you the ultimate introduction to the Office of Community Engagement staff, and once you are on the email list for their department, you’ll be among the first to know what volunteer opportunities are available on campus. Volunteering is among my favorite pastimes, and there is a positive vibe after a long day of service which is enough incentive for me to spend some evenings, and weekends representing William & Mary as a student volunteer for the greater Williamsburg area.