By Michaella Lesieur, Staff Writer
The desire to serve a multitude of communities and to unite together as a campus to give back to a stream line of organizations and fundraisers is just one of the ways UMass Dartmouth students, staff and faculty work together to create change in society.
Whether you are first starting out or have completed hours of service, starting to volunteer is nothing but rewarding. “Students often experience a paradigm shift. They have traditionally viewed the world through a lens of sacristy (what we don’t have materially) but then come to realize that the more they develop themselves the more they have to give to others,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor for Civic Engagement Matthew Roy. “Many of the opportunities are fun, but most importantly they generally challenge student’s intellectual skills…”
Being able to look back and understand what one has accomplished is another important aspect. “…Reflection after service is a critical component to better understanding [the] self, how you learn, what your assumptions are, and how you interact with others. Students in any major can use their skills set to make our community a better place to live,” said Roy proudly.
The Leduc Center for Civic Engagement is located in the Liberal Arts Building, room 023 and always has its door open. “The mission of the Leduc Center is to maximize the active learning opportunities of students and faculty that also benefit the community.
These opportunities are generally in two major activities: service-learning where faculty embed academic challenges into classes that also benefit the community or community service- where students, faculty, and staff volunteer their time and talents on and off campus,” said Roy. “The Leduc Center is often the bridge between our campuses intellectual assets and community needs.”
The ways in which students choose to get involved can be simple whether you are looking to volunteer individually or collaboratively. “Keep your eyes open. When you see a need, think about what you can do to help. Research. See what other people are doing in your area to address the same need,” said Campus Compact for Southern New England and AmeriCorps VISTA Angie Green. “Collaborate, reach out to them. Visit the Leduc Center. There are so many different ways to be involved. It’s up to you to start.”
Civic Engagement is in fact for everyone. “Volunteerism/civic engagement is important to anyone of any age. It can be especially pertinent to college students as you are free to explore new areas of interest and passions. Volunteering is a time to take you out of the ‘campus bubble’ and stress of class, to see beyond your immediate surroundings,” said Green. “It is exposure to the need in the community and helps you better understand the so many different kinds of needs that exist…”
Volunteering is also a great way to leave your mark and invest your time and efforts into something you love.
Likewise, you are able to create a network of people who are all interested in similar concepts. “It brings everyone out of their comfort zone in a united effort to make a difference,” said Green assuringly. “These combined effects of service help you grow as an individual and as a community.”
Green who took a leap of faith by leaving her home town to serve is proud with her decision:
“So far, the AmeriCorps VISTA position has been more life-changing than I ever could’ve imagined. Every day is different, every day is a new lesson, and every day my perspective of the world broadens. It is a constant rollercoaster ride of moving forward or re-evaluating how to address a particular issue,” said Green.
“It is beyond what I could’ve imagined, but I would 100% recommend it to anyone, especially recent college grads…”
Becoming a part of the AmeriCorps program, much like the Peace Corps will help guide you on your path towards success. “…The problem solving, and everyday challenges are valuable lessons that develop well rounded skillsets applicable to any career.”
The Leduc Center has been creating positive experiences for communities from all over and has grown since the very start.
“…When we started we had six faculty actively teaching service learning classes and now we have over 150 faculty. Our students average more than 30 hours per year in service to our communities. We are able to document 257,000 hours of service (service-learning and volunteerism) by students and the Independent Sectors values over $8 million,” said Roy by breaking down the numbers. “Honestly, the experience is priceless because it helps students to realize the joys of using their gifts to make the world a better place.”
If you are interested in volunteering the center has numerous opportunities that students and staff can participate in.
Feel free to stop by the center or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
This includes but is not limited to: The Love Your Ocean two day event on September 29 and September 30, 2018, Share the Harvest every Thursday from 3:00-5:00 p.m., The South Coast Serves 60 Pledge, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Saturday’s of Service, America Read, walks, runs, and fundraisers supporting research for cures are just some of the volunteering events in which one can take part.
PHOTO COURTESY: THE LEDUC CENTER