Your view: Volunteering works as post-graduation option

Ellen Euclide

Whether a freshman picking out a major or a senior applying for graduation, many Kent State students are thinking about their post-graduation plans. Recently, a new option has become popular across the country: volunteer work. We live in a society that pushes us to begin the climb up the corporate ladder immediately after we walk across that stage in the M.A.C. Center, running directly opposite to many of the “idealistic” goals that many of us hold. Idealistic doesn’t have to mean unrealistic. In fact, devoting your time and energy to helping others can be incredibly rewarding and an entirely realistic post-graduation decision.

Many religious groups and governmental programs dedicate themselves entirely to connecting those interested in serving full time to agencies that need them and then providing a support system for these volunteers. The programs range from a few weeks to several years and offer placements across the world in just about any service imaginable, often offering housing and stipends to make volunteering financially possible. The well known AmeriCorps and Peace Corps programs are funded by the government and allow students to defer their loans during service. Many inter-faith programs offer the added benefit of orientations and retreats to help their volunteers grow through their work and deal with the stress of such life changing experiences. Other volunteers may choose to find a place to serve without the help of such a “middle-man” program, leaving them more freedom to pursue their own passions and define their own schedules.

For centuries, many of those who felt the call to serve others did so by entering the priesthood or a convent, but today a lifelong commitment to serving does not have to mean lifelong vows. Instead, serving full time for several years or even only a few months can shape a person’s worldview and faith so they can continue to work for social justice in every part of their lives. The benefits of such a choice are tremendous and go far beyond the “warm-fuzzy feeling” of knowing that you’re helping others. Most programs ask volunteers to live simply in community with other volunteers, providing the opportunity to form friendships with like-minded people and placing the focus on caring human relationships rather than possessions or money.

Volunteers are often faced with people who, though impressed at their selfless decisions, do not view the lifestyle as part of the “real world.” I cannot imagine anything more real. Immersing yourself in the struggles of other human beings and working to help them will change the way you view the world. It is not defined by thesis deadlines, sales quotas or GRE scores. Instead the world around us is defined by human relationships and interactions, whether they be loving or indifferent, familial or simply with the person next to you at the bus stop. This is probably both the most liberating and hopeful realizations that one can come to because while one person can’t change the whole world, they can most definitely change the world of the people with whom their lives cross. Through a spider web of connections, those interactions will most definitely affect the world we live in. Deciding to volunteer full time is a wonderful way to create these loving connections and truly impact the world around you.

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Ellen Euclide is a senior Spanish and economics major who is working at Su Casa Catholic Worker House in Chicago. Contact her [email protected].