Grand Valley State University prides itself on being a place that encourages student involvement in communities through volunteering. There are over 400 student organizations on campus that regularly do volunteer work throughout the year, as well as on-campus resources that regularly put on volunteer or advocacy-based events. The majority of these organizations participate in volunteer work both on campus, in the Grand Rapids community, as well as in other parts of the U.S. and world through service projects and alternative breaks. At the end of fall semester, GVSU had a total of 8,314 hours of student service recorded, and that number continues to grow.
Grand Valley’s Community Service Learning Center (CSLC) has been an integral part of helping students get involved with volunteer opportunities and giving back in a variety of ways. The CSLC works with students to empower them to become active, global citizens through providing co-curricular engagement opportunities and events that promote volunteering and advocacy.
It also works with a number of community partners to create unique opportunities for students to get involved in their community and elsewhere. Melissa Baker-Boosamra, Associate Director of Student Life and Civic Engagement and Assessment, expressed that the CSLC helps students that may not be a part of a major organization on campus get involved in volunteer work.
“We have a number of community engagement programs with which we provide students with connections to volunteer work with various nonprofit partners in the community,” Baker-Boosamra said. “We also created larger campus-wide events that promote giving back, such as our Make a Difference Day, MLK Day of Solidarity and Community Outreach Week, which help students both in and outside of organizations get opportunities to give back during the semester.”
According to the CSLC’s 2018-2019 impact analysis, the center recorded just under 36,000 student community engagement hours, which equates to just over $912,000. The center also had 710 students participate in CSLC-sponsored programs like blood donation events, which collected a reported 413 units of blood equating to 1,239 potential lives saved through donations.
As of Jan. 1, the top two organizations in service were the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NNSLHA) with 931.5 hours of service, and Sigma Kappa sorority with 765.5 hours of service.
“When the new E-Board came on, we decided that everyone needed to do volunteering to be an officially member just because we think it’s so important, it looks really great on resumes, and we really want to impact the community a little more than a couple years ago,” said NNSLHA volunteer coordinator Lauren Browning.
Typically, the CSLC sees service and advocacy organizations with high numbers in service. However, at the beginning of this year, the CSLC switched over to using Laker Link to record hours of service, so there were less than normal recordings of service as students and staff are learning about the new system.
Stephanie Torres, Lead Civic Engagement Associate for the CSLC, said that she confident that the numbers will continue to rise as more students take advantage of volunteer opportunities and utilize the new system to keep track of their hours. She says that the CSLC is constantly looking to improve numbers and increase engagement, and believes the new Laker Link system will help to simplify the process for students.
Melissa Baker-Boosamra said that she believes volunteer experience is an important part of college education, giving students unique opportunities to work within their community to make a difference. She encourages students who want to get involved in volunteer work to check out the CSLC’s website for information on upcoming events and programs that could kickstart their volunteer work.
“When you are putting yourself out there in a community in a way that allows you to learn about the community you’re a part of, it allows you to contribute positively and learn about yourself and the ways that you can give back to those around you,” Baker-Boosamra said, “It’s a great networking opportunity for students who are thinking about future careers, helping them get connected with and learn from local community leaders. Volunteer work is also a perfect way to get to know your fellow students, work on team building, reflection, and working towards a common goal.”