Even before coming to Elon University, civic engagement was a huge part of my life. No matter where you are in the world, community service teaches people compassion and understanding on real-world issues. It gives people the opportunity to act on something they’re passionate about. There’s also no time limit to service work. People can volunteer as much or as little as they want and still make an impact on someone else’s life.
I grew up doing Relay for Life, a community-based fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. At a young age, I was surrounded by the effects of fundraising, creating awareness and supporting cancer survivors; including some of my own family members, neighbors and friends.
In high school, I got involved with volunteering for Masonicare, an assisted living program. I was able to make extraordinary memories with extraordinary people, including some old enough to have seen John F. Kennedy become president or who were drafted during the Vietnam war.
Additionally, I led a Unified Sports team for my high school. Unified Sports is an athletic program for students with disabilities. In this, I saw students of all ages achieve what they thought to be impossible.
Then, tragedy struck my hometown of Newton, Connecticut. A shooter killed 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
After this, I understood the importance of political activism and joined the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, an organization of high school students who work tirelessly to end gun violence across the country.
The organizations I joined surrounded me with brilliant energy, which is essential for civic engagement our democracy. Civic engagement has a direct impact on various communities across the nation. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.
Through my experiences with service, I’ve learned valuable life lessons I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve learned a dollar can go a long way, whether it’s for medical research or to fund a protest. I’ve learned how being in someone else’s company and listening to them can create moments both parties cherish forever.
This is absolutely something that Elon students should be taking advantage of, and can very easily.
I currently work as a student writer for the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement. Located in upstairs Moseley, this is the service hub for Elon students and is home to Elon Volunteers, Academic Service-Learning, Service Saturdays, student-led service organizations and post-graduate service opportunities.
In my job, I’m able to speak with those who lead students in changing the Elon community through service. Time and time again, I am reminded of how important this type of work is.
I was given the opportunity to speak with Andrea Sheetz and Ellie Synder, two student coordinators and the Andrew Goodman Foundation ambassadors for Elon Votes. Their passion for democracy is incredible and with their civil engagement efforts over the years, they were able to almost triple voter turnout on Elon’s campus between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections. They described to me how special it was to see a student cast their vote for the first time. One vote can create more change than we realize, especially now that voting power is in the hands of our generation.
This is all the more reason to engage in service work and become an active citizen on this campus.
Similarly, I spoke with Emma Greenberg, a student leader for Elon Buddies and coordinator for Special Olympics. Greenberg’s passion for helping those with disabilities has really affected the lives of many families across Alamance County. Her work is all about believing in someone and focusing on their abilities rather than their disabilities.
For Greenberg, it’s breathtaking to see what people can do when you give them a shot. Her attitude represents the true meaning of service. This is what creates real change in our world.
More recently, I interviewed Jo Gump, the liaison for Elon University and Family Abuse Services. Elon has had an ongoing partnership with FAS for some time now. Through this partnership, Elon students are given the opportunity to create awareness for domestic violence and provide support for survivors in the community. Gump reminded me that all it takes is one person to aid those going through some sort of domestic abuse situation. One person could save someone’s life.
The office I work in is extraordinary. It is a hidden gem on this campus. I witness motivated energy every day — an energy that defines what it means to be a global citizen and inspires others to take action on the issues challenging communities in the U.S. and across the globe.
Most people don’t know about the work various individuals are doing at Elon, so I encourage students to really think about the difference they could make if they choose to get involved.
You never know what other people are going through. You don’t realize the difference service can make on a community until you experience it firsthand. Go out there. Get involved. There’s no better time than now.
Just wait until you see the impact service has on people’s lives. It’s unlike anything else you’ll ever experience in a lifetime.