United Way seeks greater student involvement

Melody Wachowski

Junior chemistry major Aaron Elliott and sophomore business management major Andrew Clark both spent hours participating in volunteer activities during high school but no longer stay active in the community.

“During high school I went over the required amount of hours of volunteer service because I became attached to the people I was helping. Now, the information simply isn’t available, and I don’t have time to search for it,” Clark said. Elliott said he felt that he would rather not be bothered by the extra responsibility – and he may not be alone.

Though college students like Elliott and Clark may not be as active in volunteering in college as they have been in the past, a study by the Journal of College Student Development showed that volunteer programs and activities have a significant impact on the educational and personal development of college students.

The 2001 study of 875 students from ten institutions showed higher scores of community-involved students in areas such as conflict resolution skills, ability to plan and implement programs and activities, understanding of leadership theories and commitment to civic responsibility.

Campus Contact, a coalition of more than 900 college and university presidents, also places importance on student engagement. According to the Campus Contact Web site, community involvement helps universities and colleges improve community life and educate students about their civic and social responsibilities.

Lack of interest and participation on part of students like Elliott and Clark has not gone unnoticed, however.

Ron Kilchenman, associate director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Portage County, expressed concern over the 70 to 100 Kent area children who are on a waiting list for a mentor.

“There are usually about 15 Kent State student volunteers at any given time during the year. We would love to get as many students involved as possible,” Kilchenman said.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Portage County is a branch program of the United Way of Portage County, an organization that helps fund several smaller programs throughout the county, such as the American Red Cross and Kent Social Services.

United Way focuses on five basic areas of need: crises, children and youth, adults, families and health and well-being issues. Money used to fund these needs comes from members of the community and is distributed to neighbors, coworkers and friends in need.

Currently, the United Way is looking for ways to get Kent State students involved with the community. A meeting is scheduled this morning in the Student Center to raise student awareness of ways to get involved and make some changes.

Kathy Baker, director of marketing and communication at United Way of Portage County, said that although many college students have a limited income, there is much students can accomplish by being involved.

The meeting, which is set to discuss Kent State’s United Way Campaign for 2007, should help to “talk about who will do what, and what avenues will be used for reaching students (and) staff,” Baker said in an e-mail.

So what’s stopping more students from helping the residents of Kent? If it’s a lack of convenience or information, students can soon expect more information from the United Way of Portage County about how to get involved.

Contact social services reporter Melody Wachowski at [email protected].