For many, Winter Term is a time of leisure. Students are only in class for three hours a day, most organizations are not holding meetings and, in general, free time is excessive. 

Instead of using this time to catch up on shows on Netflix or taking three naps a day, use this invaluable free time to learn more about your peers, your community and yourself by engaging in service. 

High involvement in service learning and community engagement is something Elon University has always strived for. The university gives students an abundance of opportunities to get off campus and get in touch with the community, but it is up to students to take these opportunities on.

The Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement is active in creating opportunities for students to get involved in service based on a student’s specific area of interest. These different areas of interest include affordable housing, education, mentoring and human rights. Students can participate in service that is linked to their academic discipline, giving them a more hands-on form of education.

The most beautiful thing about service that many people—especially college-age students—overlook is that we can learn so much about our peers, our community and ourselves while serving others.

Stacey Rusterholz, Campus Kitchen Coordinator for the Kernodle Center, emphasized this fact.  Service isn’t solely about serving others. Students can actually learn and gain so much by giving back—they just have to try it to see. 

“We hope that by serving, students get a better understanding of the community they are a part of” said Rusterholz.

In addition to this, service can give students a better appreciation of diversity and further connect them to those who have had different experiences from them. During this week’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative program, students are invited to “Get On The Bus” to get off campus and engage in service within the community through the MLK Week of Service, sponsored by the CREDE and the Kernodle Center. 

On Thursday, Jan. 21, a bus will be leaving at 8:30 a.m. to participate in a Habitat Restore, and on Friday, Jan. 22 a bus will also be leaving at 8:30 a.m. to volunteer at the Goodwill Retail Store. Jamie Butler, assistant director for the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education (CREDE), urges students to get involved with service so they can connect with diverse groups. 

“We are all living in this world together,” said Butler. “We need to make this world a better place together. For me and as a representative of the CREDE, I am more concerned with students having the opportunity to interact with other students. Service connects people cross-culturally.” 

This cross-cultural connection is something that is important for Elon students to have. Service is a way to educate ourselves on diverse, underprivileged groups, while simultaneously contributing to a greater cause. 

As Winter Term comes to an end, make a promise to yourself and your community to engage in service. Get on the bus this week and learn more about your community. Engage in conversations with those who may be different from you. As Winter Term study abroad applications soon open up, apply for a program with an emphasis on service and service learning. I promise, you will be so surprised to see how much you can get by giving back.