Elon University students hoping to complete an Experiential Learning Requirement need look no further than the John R. Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, more commonly known as the Kernodle Center.

The Kernodle Center offers students opportunities to get involved with yearlong service organizations or special events, and Elon Volunteers! operates as an umbrella organization for services on campus.

“We have 130 student leaders who plan, implement and evaluate service programs for students,” said Mary Morrison, the assistant dean of students and director of the Kernodle Center. “All of that is engaged with the community.”

Elon Volunteers! offers programs, events and service organizations. Popular events include blood drives and Special Olympics, service organizations include Safe Rides and Habitat for Humanity, and their programs include Students Helping Animals Regain Equality and Lunch Buddies.

S.H.A.R.E. gives students the opportunity to interact with the animals of Alamance County, according to sophomore Chelsea Weber.

“I chose to volunteer in hopes of gaining knowledge about how to deal with different types of dogs, but I also just really missed my dog, and this helped fill the void,” Weber said.

Other students on campus choose to participate in awareness volunteer programs such as Invisible Children or the Campus Kitchen Project.

During the 2013-2014 school year, more than 11,000 pounds of food was collected and donated to community members through Campus Kitchen.

Volunteering through the years

From 2013 to 2014 the number of volunteers increased by 23 percent, and more than 120,000 hours of service were completed.

Morrison speculates these changes have occurred because of increased class sizes and better outreach.

“We’ve been doing a better job of reaching out to student organizations and asking them to report their hours,” she said. “We have more students and more students engaged in service.”

Last year more than 3,000 students volunteered through on-campus initiatives, including both service organizations and service-learning courses.

Service-learning courses require students to apply what they are learning in their classes to help the community. For example, students enrolled in a public relations class can work for real businesses or non profits to create materials for them that they otherwise could not afford.

Students can also complete the service ELR requirements by reporting their volunteer hours.

“Many students don’t feel a need to get credit for their service, but we are trying to help them understand that we want to let the Elon community know all the good work that students are doing,” Morrison said. “It’s an important part of the Elon education, being engaged with the community through service.”

Kernodle Center access and changes

There is now a Downtown Center for Community Engagement that students can rent out for group meetings or conference. The space features a space for 15 to 20 people, a flat screen to display presentations and white boards to record notes.

Making it easier to access the Downtown Center is the BioBus, which has been around for a couple of years but is less popular than other routes.

The BioBus route is roughly an hour long and travels to all of the community partnerships with whom Elon volunteers interact.

Morrison encouraged students without cars to look into the bus route because they can still easily volunteer in the community.

She also suggested students simply ride the bus to see the work that Elon students are doing in the community.

Despite these improvements, the Kernodle Center “always wants more folks involved,” Morrison said.

With more than 30 volunteer organizations on campus, students can find a cause they feel passionate about.

“A lot of people tend to think of volunteering as work, but if you pick something you enjoy, you’ll look forward to doing it,” Weber said.

Getting involved early can lead to other volunteer opportunities in the future.

“I’m so thankful that S.H.A.R.E. opened my eyes to the needs of animals at shelters so I could pursue volunteering at home as well as at Elon,” Weber said.