Going local: Elon needs volunteers outside university

Editorial published in the print edition of Elon University’s student-run newspaper, The Pendulum, on September 3, 2014.

Photo by Brooke Faison

Photo by Brooke Faison

Elon University is known for its global mindset. We have a Global Neighborhood, a high percentage of study abroad participants and multiple internationally minded courses. As Elon expands its worldview it should also focus on what goes on in the areas immediately surrounding the university.

All students at Elon have the opportunity to volunteer at some point in their undergraduate careers. With one of the largest incoming freshman classes to date, expanding its engagement in the Burlington community should not be a problem for the university. 

With 17.3% of all persons in Alamance County below the poverty level, the need for volunteers to help combat hunger in the area is very real.  

While Elon’s volunteering responsibility rests at least somewhat on the university itself, it is also up to students to take advantage of the opportunities offered.

Abbey Riesett, director of Campus Kitchen at Elon, puts it simply. “It’s a benefit from a liberal arts education,” 

In the 2013-2014 school year, a total of 3,100 total student volunteers completed 127,656 hours of service. That’s a 23 percent increase from the previous year. These numbers need to continue rising until just about every able-bodied Elon student has volunteered by the time they graduate.

The Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement is a resource just waiting to be tapped by students. It is home to Elon Volunteers! and more than 130 students leaders. Mary Morrison, assistant dean of students and director of the Kernodle Center, believes that service gets students outside the Elon bubble. 

Members of Elon Volunteers! encourage students to explore outside Elon and understand the needs of the community around them. 

Elon senior Brooke Faison, a cooking shifts coordinator for Campus Kitchens and a coordinator for Special Olympics, finds that to be a beneficial plus of volunteering.

“You get to see a different perspective of the Burlington community and burst out of that ‘Elon bubble,’” said Faison. “It’s important preparation for the real world outside of college. Elon is not real life. It’s important to know that there are other people who are out there.”

The Kernodle Center’s theme this year is digging deeper. This year, student’s experiences will be examined further, when looking at the larger picture of social justice and the long-term effects of service. The root causes of social issues will be discussed after volunteer projects and students are invited to get creative with addressing community needs.

Alamance County also has a very high rate of children living in poverty. The state percentage is 25 percent while Alamance County has a 26.3 percent rate of children living below the poverty line. 

Elon Volunteers! offers about 30 programs. Some of its events throughout the year include blood drives, a poverty simulation, and more. 

With such a spread of programs, a student is bound to find a program with which they connect. 

Many courses at Elon also incorporate service into their curriculum, and Elon is working towards having a service-oriented course in most majors.

For those who aren’t quite sure what they want to do or how they can help, programs like Get on the Bus encourage a less intensive volunteer experience. Get on the Bus allows students to have the chance to try multiple types of service and become more comfortable with the community. Students take a bus to different organizations and charities around Elon and Burlington. If you can sign up ahead of time, do. 

Recently, Elon students packaged 40,000 meals to fight hunger. Not only will these meals help families both locally and abroad but pakcaging and preparing these meals teach students new and sustainable ways to combat hunger. 

Elon provides it students with many chances to volunteer in the community. Not only do these opportunities help the surrounding area but it teaches students the importance of helping those around them which has long been an integral part of the Elon vision. 

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