Community Service Center outlines end-of-year opportunitiesBy Bethany Blair | 03/30/2011 10:55pm
Students passing through the Ferguson Center Plaza earlier this week may have noticed a small, seemingly misplaced shed being constructed in the middle of the bustling student center.
But the oddly placed table saw and student construction crew were doing a lot more than making noise. They were part of the UA Community Service Center building a tool shed for the Tuscaloosa branch of Habitat for Humanity.
As a part of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, volunteers built the Habitat shed Monday through Wednesday, but according to Wahnee Sherman, director of the Community Service Center, there will be many more service opportunities to come as the school year closes.
“We usually have weekly opportunities to volunteer,” Sherman said Monday. “Until tomorrow, we’re building this Habitat for Humanity shed. Then Wednesday, we’re hosting the Sleep Out on the Quad, where students will actually spend the night sleeping out on the Quad. Both projects deal with homelessness and raising awareness for it. Also, on April 8, we have an event called Hands on Tuscaloosa where we’re teaming up with SGA and Housing and Residential Communities, which we’re hoping to have more than 300 students attend.”
Whether students need to fulfill community service requirements, or are simply looking for a way to reach out to their community, Sherman said the possibilities are endless for those looking to help out.
“We have over 150 partners in Tuscaloosa,” she said. “We work with after-school mentor programs, animal shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes and hospices. We work with a lot of major organizations like Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army and the Red Cross, too.”
Sherman said the Community Service Center strives to make community service both enjoyable and accessible to students.
“I think the good thing about community service is it’s available to any student at any time,” she said. “You don’t have to have any special requirements or fill out any extensive applications to be able to help others around you. And the Community Service Center wants to make sure students have the same volunteering opportunities in college as they had in high school.”
Rachel Edington, assistant director of the Community Service Center, said the Center also looks to strengthen students’ relationships with the faculty, staff and community members around them.
“The goals of our office are to educate students to become advocates for service, increase awareness of civic responsibility, strengthen relationships between students and their communities and cultivate relationships with faculty to create service-learning opportunities across all disciplines for students,” Edington said.
Like Sherman, Edington said there are countless service opportunities for students, and these numerous options help volunteers find their true callings.
“Everyone has a different passion for something, so it is rewarding to be able to help provide that for students and the University,” she said. “You also get connected with Tuscaloosa and get to see firsthand the needs of the community and be able to share it with others. You also get to see service needs not only in Tuscaloosa, but with our Alternative Break trips you get to see the needs across the nation and internationally.”
Passione Cooper, a freshman majoring in elementary education, has experienced some of these opportunities firsthand. As a member of Freshman Forum, Cooper is required to fulfill a certain number of service hours and said the Community Service Center has helped her to both set and realize some of her future goals.
“Being involved in community service looks good when you go to apply for a job,” Cooper said. “Taking time out of your day to do something that benefits others definitely sets you apart from other applicants. It shows that you can put yourself aside for a little while and do something that doesn’t benefit you in any way, but will help out others.”
Although raising student awareness for certain on-campus clubs and organizations is an important part of membership, Cooper said she prefers the Community Service Center’s hands-on approach.
“Since community service is all about service, the projects are mostly hands-on, which I really like,” she said. “Actually coming out to do something with your hands, like building a Habitat for Humanity house, is very fulfilling. So instead of sitting behind a table at the Ferg all day, we get to go out in the community and do something for others.”
For a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities and information about the Community Service Center, visit its website at volunteer.ua.edu.