Student volunteering rises

Volunteering among university students across the country has increased dramatically in recent years, according to a report released this week by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The report, “College Students Helping America,” said the number of student volunteers has increased by roughly 20 percent between 2002 and 2005. In the same amount of time, adult volunteer rates have grown by only nine percent. While a number of administrators and students said they have seen this trend reflected by an increase in volunteering at Yale, many students still said community service still needs to be a bigger priority on campus.

Students register for various community service and social action organizations at a Dwight Hall bazaar last spring. A recent study indicates that student volunteering rates are increasing nationwide.
Michael Blank
Students register for various community service and social action organizations at a Dwight Hall bazaar last spring. A recent study indicates that student volunteering rates are increasing nationwide.

Most students volunteered in mentoring and tutoring programs, the report said. Service trips during breaks from school — like Yale’s ReachOut trips — have also become more popular nationwide, and college students are twice as likely to volunteer as their peers not enrolled in school.

Dwight Hall Program Director Johnny Scafidi ’01 said he has noticed an increase in volunteerism at Yale over the past few years.

“I think we’ve seen an increase in both the intensity and the overall rate of volunteerism,” he said. “Maybe in 1998, it seemed like students were involved in two activities with an average of a couple hours a week. Now, it’s more like three activities and two and a half or three hours a week.”

Jessica Bialecki ’08 said she thinks Yale is an exceptionally active campus in terms of community service and social activism. Bialecki — who has organized several community service projects, including the Freshman Day of Service for the past two years — said freshmen have been especially enthusiastic this year.

“This year in particular, I’ve noticed that the freshman class has really been excited,” she said. “We’ve really seen a boost in our membership.”

But other students said they think the participation rate remains low.

“It’s a lot easier said than done to get people to volunteer,” said Eliza Schafler ’09.

Schafler — who volunteers each week at a local soup kitchen with the group Hunger Heroes — said that although Hunger Heroes has drawn plenty of volunteers this year, other organizations requiring bigger time commitments have had trouble attracting students.

A number of Yale students said they volunteer on a regular basis, but many others said their time is limited by classes, homework, extracurricular activities, sports and social lives.

“With a full course load and two jobs, I’d love to volunteer, but I can’t seem to find the time,” Deanna Arrieta ’09 said.

The report also found that students who are employed part-time are more likely to volunteer than those who do not have jobs.

While a number of students said they found these results surprising, some said they understand why those with financial obligations may be more likely to help others.

“It really depends on what type of volunteer work you’re talking about,” Becky Hua ’09 said. “People with jobs realize the consequences of not having a good education, so they might tutor others in hopes of leading them to succeed academically. If you know the value of a dollar, you might volunteer to help the homeless.”

Occasional volunteering remains an option for students who lack the time for a weekly commitment. Such opportunities include day-long events such as the Freshman Day of Service and Community Action Day in April, which are organized by the Freshman College Council and Yale College Council, respectively. The report noted that this kind of volunteering has also grown in recent years.

Yale was not listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll of 141 American colleges and universities, which was released simultaneously with the CNCS report.

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