Service work has been shown to be very important to St. Kate’s students, with Citizen Katie happening every year and numerous volunteer opportunities being turned into full-fledged chartered clubs. Listed below are a few of the activities that students should consider when pursuing volunteer opportunities.
The Family Place
Hannah Saatzer ’16 began volunteering at The Family Place during her first year at St. Kate’s, before she transferred to Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. After having to take a community engagement course, she decided to volunteer with the age group she eventually wants to work with later on in her career: children. Luckily for Saatzer, The Family Place focuses less on the tradition of having volunteer servers hand out food at meal times and more on having them interact with the children.
“Kids pick up on when you’re not there, so the next week they’re like ‘Hannah, where were you?’” Saatzer said. “The kids really do like volunteers.”
For Saatzer, one of the biggest rewards was serving as a safety net for children experiencing housing insecurity. The kids and their parents have approached her to say, “thank you for all that you’ve done for me.”
Volunteers in Action
Taylor Mills ’16 enjoys Volunteers in Action (VIA) because of her high level of involvement in volunteering while she was in high school. VIA fulfilled her wishes by creating a balance of charity and justice in its commitment to long-term volunteer opportunities that gives students firsthand experience with important social issues. Service has always been important to Mills, and when someone stepped down from being a student coordinator of VIA the day Mills was hired for another position, she agreed to take on that role as well.
As student coordinator of Volunteers in Action, Mills worked with social service agencies to find opportunities for St. Kate’s students within the club. Mills was in charge of opportunities as nearby as Carondelet Village, volunteering at the memory care unit there, or as far away as the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, working with the tutoring service Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing.
Having had some personal struggles of her own, however, Mills realizes that not everyone has time for a new activity. She herself had to step down from VIA this semester and no one has since taken her position, rendering the group inactive.
“I know our campus is a really busy and active campus, so it can be hard to get people involved in a new activity when they already have a million on their plate,” Mills said. “[But] you can still volunteer through Campus Ministry and stuff.”
Minnesota Public Interest Research Group
MPIRG is officially chartered as a club at St. Kate’s but is actually a branch of a nonprofit organization meant to empower students for political and social change. In addition to being an advocacy group, MPIRG attempts to engage its own members and those of other groups on campus in long-term volunteer opportunities through organizations across the state. St. Kate’s MPIRG State Representative to the State Board E.J. La Valle says this helps with maximizing MPIRG’s organizing capacity and network of contacts.
On Jan. 17, 2015, MPIRG is holding a statewide Youth Democracy Summit in an effort to outline issues and initiatives that MPIRG will focus on during the legislative session.
“All in all, our ability to collaborate is what keeps activists inspired and mobilized,” La Valle said. “We are so grateful for the opportunities that we get to represent our organization, as well as the opportunities to build student leadership on our campus.”
Create your own opportunity
Listed above are just some of the opportunities that have been created or discovered by ambitious students eager to give back to the community through volunteering. Other opportunities are open to students within the Community Work and Learning Office, located in Coeur de Catherine 233, where students can be matched to open opportunities. The Student Center and Activities Office in Coeur de Catherine 270 can also point students in the direction of clubs that serve their interests and can introduce them to like-minded people. There are also sites such as www.volunteermatch.org that can help in the search for a volunteer opportunity.