Volunteering up among students


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During high school, Elizabeth Winter volunteered at a hospital and with the National Honors Society. When she entered her freshman year at the University of Iowa last semester, she began participating in Saturdays in Service. And this semester, Winter is furthering her interest in volunteering by looking for a new outlet in which to continue giving back.

Winter is one of the increasing number of students involved in volunteer organizations at the UI, groups that are growing in number as well.

“[Students] realize that there are other people out there who have it worse than them and their life is really good,” Winter said.

At Wednesday’s spring semester Volunteer Fair, 65 organizations were represented. This number was up from 60 organizations at the fall 2010 fair and only 45 organizations at the spring 2010 fair, said Mary Mathew Wilson, the director of the community-based learning program at the UI.

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The fair, which was held in the IMU Main Lounge, averages 800 attendees, said Mathew Wilson.
The UI also hosted an alternative spring break “mini fair” for the first time at the Volunteer Fair, with three student organizations and representatives from the University of Iowa Student Government. UISG offers financial assistance to students wishing to go on an alternative spring-break trip.

UI sophomore Elaine Kim, a finance assistant with Students Today Leaders Forever, said volunteering has increased for her organization’s cross-country spring-break trip.

“Last year was our first year we sent off two coach buses,” Kim said; in previous years, only one bus made the trip. “So, we’ve had double the number of students.”

Pearl Kohl, a staff member at Campus Crusade for Christ, said the group expects more than 40 people on its alternative spring-break trip to Panama City Beach, Fla. Kohl said students are given letters to send out, and they can often pay for their trip entirely through this independent method of fundraising.

Jennifer Nissen, the coordinator for leadership and service at Iowa State University said volunteer opportunities also appear to be on the rise at Iowa State.

“There’s a lot of opportunities,” she said, noting that alternative spring-break programs are also growing in popularity. Last year, three organizations offered the trips. This year, five did, she said.

In addition to interest, the funding of volunteer projects at the UI is increasing for some organizations on campus.

The WiderNet Project recently received a Global Disability Rights Library grant for $1.6 million, said UI senior Alba Anderson, who works for organization.

Ultimately, Winter said, getting involved with volunteer organizations is beneficial to college life.

“It’s something to do,” she said. “You’re helping other people, and you’re not just sitting by yourself.”

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