Fair highlights volunteer, internship opportunities

GVL/Jose Rodriguez
GVSU alumni promote Grace Hospice at the annual internship fair

GVL/Jose Rodriguez GVSU alumni promote Grace Hospice at the annual internship fair

Keith Eichholz

Grand Valley State University wrapped up its winter 2015 Nonprofit Volunteer and Internship Fair on Jan. 28.

The two-day event held in Henry Hall featured more than 50 nonprofit organizations and aimed to provide students with opportunities to volunteer or intern with various agencies in the greater Grand Rapids area.

Laura Murnen, graduate assistant for service initiatives at Student Life and event coordinator, split it up into two days to accommodate more nonprofits and students’ schedules.

“We’ve gotten so much more attention from nonprofits recently for the fair that it keeps growing and growing,” Murnen said.

For Murnen, the purpose of the fair is clear.

“The purpose is to bring community nonprofit organizations to our campus,” Murnen said. “It’s set up like a college fair. You can go to different nonprofit organizations that have sent a couple representatives who have volunteer and internship opportunities through their offices. You can speak with them depending on if you’re really interested in a different issue area, or if you have a nonprofit organization that you like, or if you’re just really interested in volunteering or gaining an internship.”

Murnen likes how the fair is student-focused.

“It’s really just to provide that on-campus opportunity for students to help them feel engaged,” Murnen said. “This is a great way for nonprofits to come to our campus and know our students.”

Julian Tonning, operations coordinator for the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, attended the event and spoke about the benefits of volunteering as a student.

“It’s a good way to show a prospective employer that you’re proactive, you’ve got work experience, you’ve got team-building experience, and that you can get things done,” Tonning said. “This is a lot of problem solving because you never do the same thing twice and you’re always faced with something that you didn’t expect.

“You’ve got to solve problems on the go. You do it in teams of two to four people. You deal with it, you figure out what you’ve got and you solve the problem and move on.”

The Tulip Time Festival is an eight-day event always beginning the first Saturday in May. The festival, celebrating its 86th anniversary this year, is looking for help with the operations and logistics side of the parade.

“We just do all the behind-the-scenes stuff to keep the festival going,” Tonning said.

The Tulip Time Festival will attract 300,000 to 400,000 people during that week, Tonning said, and will feature a magician and The Second City Comedy team of Chicago.

The festival usually attracts six to 12 GVSU students to serve as volunteers, but could use a lot more.

“We will use about 800 volunteers for the festival,” Tonning said, with the hours being very flexible with participants’ schedules.

The event is very successful, Tonning said, and he sees a lot of familiar faces among his volunteers year after year.

“They love it,” Tonning said. “They’ll come back. We’ll get about 30 percent of the teams coming back and doing it again because they had such a good time the first time.”

Another opportunity for Lakers to volunteer exists at the Conductive Learning Center, which was represented by Development Assistant Erin Quackenbush.

“We’re an educational rehabilitation program for children with motor disorders, primarily cerebral palsy, spina bifida or traumatic brain injury,” Quackenbush said.

The center, which started in 1997, uses a holistic approach to rehabilitation.

“It’s physical, cognitive, social and it’s taught by certified teachers, not physical therapists, who are in the classroom working with the kids,” Quackenbush said. “It’s different from therapy because it’s in a group setting, so the kids are motivating each other and doing the task together.”

The CLC serves children birth to age 26 and has very specific volunteer needs right now.

“Primarily, right now, we’re looking for help in the office – someone who can help out with marketing, social media and fundraising,” Quackenbush said.