Campus, community offer volunteer opportunities

Students around campus are paying it forward by volunteering at local organizations such as West Kentucky Mentoring and Needline.

Murray State students have done their best to help the local community and the results have been tremendous.

“A very important part of the results are found in the thousands of hours and days of volunteers service given from MSU students to the campus and local community,” said Bob Long, professor of youth and non-profit leadership. “There are many local organizations that would have very limited capacity without our students. Some report that they would not exist at all without MSU student volunteers.”

Resources exist to help students find organizations with whom to volunteer. On campus, students can contact the Murray State University Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement or the youth and non-profit leadership program.

“Robin Esau, the coordinator for our youth and non-profit leadership program, is connected to nearly all of the nonprofits in the region,” Long said. “Students should also be encouraged to ask their professors about volunteering. They are often connected to local organizations.”

Volunteering has positive consequences not only for those who are on the receiving end, but the volunteers themselves.

“A quality volunteer experience can do a lot for students, from enhance their self-esteem and sense of self-worth to provide quality professional experiences in service to others,” Long said. “The underlying principles of service learning are applied by many faculty when they used service experiences in their courses, which allow students to learn while serving. However, any form of volunteer service brings many benefits to the students.”

Millie Forrest, freshman from Louisville, Ky., has volunteered at a local preschool over the past two semesters.

“I started volunteering for a scholarship, but it’s something that I absolutely love,” Forrest said. “It makes me realize how blessed I am.”

Forrest said her favorite part of volunteering is the children she works with.

“They’re so carefree and loving, and they actually look up to me and the other adults as examples,” Forrest said. “It’s so heartwarming to see a preschooler mimicking something you do. Probably my favorite thing is when I walk in the door at 8 a.m. and when the kids see me they’ll say ‘Hey, Miss Millie.’”

One of the reasons Forrest said she wanted to volunteer was to remind herself and others how blessed they are.

“We all need to help others who might not be as fortunate as us,” Forrest said. “It’s important to keep ourselves humble by doing something and not expecting anything in return.”

Long said he hopes students see the responsibility they have to help their fellow men and women.

“The roots of our democracy are in the freedom to voluntarily associate to do for ourselves and others,” Long said. “We often forget or don’t really understand that this is a freedom. And, of course, with these freedoms come responsibilities, and we don’t know them or respond to them often enough. It would be wonderful for our country’s future is every student had a great, rewarding, fulfilling and important volunteer experience during their college years that both made a positive impact on other people’s lives and informed their development as citizens of the country.”