FredParent Resident Advisor – Keeping a Savvy Perspective!
While applying to colleges, selecting classes and majors, and shopping for the dorm can be daunting tasks for kids and parents alike, no task is a match for the big one: dropping a kid off at the beginning of the school year. Parents must cope with letting go, and as they say that final goodbye in the parking lot of their kid’s dorm, they’re probably envisioning all the worst scenarios of their baby immersed in a crowd of Solo cups and zero adult supervision. However, as a recent college graduate, I’m here to say that while yes, some kids do indulge on the weekends; this is only a small fraction of how they will spend their time while away from home.
Volunteering in its purest form occurs often and a lot throughout four-year universities nationwide. I’m not talking about the mandatory volunteer hours that some schools and organizations enforce, or volunteer hours in which some sort of compensation is given upon their completion. The beauty in this volunteering is that it is done strictly on a student’s own accord. I will never forget the feeling I experienced when I was 19 years old and participated in my first community service program while in college. It was known as the Big Event, a school-wide program that consisted of groups of students given assigned tasks throughout the area to complete together. I had no reason at all to wake up on that very early Saturday and stagger sleepily down the hall to meet up with my hall mates, but some force pulled me out of bed that morning and guided me through my first true act of volunteerism. I spent several hours in the garden of an elderly lady’s house, mulching and digging with some of my fellow classmates. While it wasn’t much fun for me at the time, the sense of satisfaction I felt when I was done was something I had not anticipated. And I was one of thousands of students who participated that morning.
Volunteering not only provided me with a feeling of contentment, but also gave me an eye-opening perspective that one could only achieve through helping people unable to help themselves. For me, it was as simple as realizing that people in my community were struggling to take care of their homes because their health had deteriorated with age. But the Big Event is just one instance of the endless volunteer opportunities kids in college are able to choose from. There are other school-wide events, such as Relay for Life. There are organizations designed specifically for community service, such as Habitat for Humanity or service fraternities. Other social fraternities and sororities, which all have specific philanthropies, provide students with the freedom to put as much time and effort into good causes as they want. Another popular option for volunteering includes alternative spring and winter breaks, where students can travel to places of need, e.g. areas in poverty, and put in their services this way.
All of these opportunities continue to expand, and while participating in them does provide students with an important dynamic to their resumes, the sense of fulfillment gained through volunteering should not be underestimated. I do believe helping others is an act that most kids who are fortunate enough to attend college explore naturally once they leave home, hence the growing success of these volunteer programs. The Big Event at my school, for example, increased in participants every year that I was there. And while I was able to leverage the fact that I was one of these participants when applying for positions later on, I can honestly say that what I gained intrinsically was far more valuable.
Ashley Oliver recently joined the Fredericksburg Parent and Family staff. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech who served as a resident advisor for three years. Ashley is relating her experience as an RA to reach out to our parents with kids in college and for those preparing for the future. Join Ashley online monthly to get a Savvy Perspective of the college journey.