Students talk about the VITAL program during the Community Engagement Bazaar held in the Wellness Center during Welcome Week.
Welcome Week included the Community Engagement Bazaar on Thursday, introducing Lawrence students to all sorts of volunteer and service opportunities. It was held in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center gym.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Getting involved in the Appleton community can sometimes be imposing for students new to Lawrence. Volunteering just might be the path you’re looking for.

The school’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) notes in its recently released annual report that 782 students contributed 6,659 hours of volunteer service during the 2018-19 academic year, and 75 percent of the graduating seniors said they had volunteered during their time at Lawrence.

The CCE, now working within the Center for Career Life and Community Engagement (CLC), is looking to keep that momentum going in the new academic year, making it as easy as possible for students to get involved and to follow their passions.

The center, located in the Seeley G. Mudd Library, was previously known as Volunteer and Community Service Center. It rebranded itself to better reflect the wide array of service opportunities available on and off campus.

“We wanted to be more true to our mission, which is not just volunteering,” said Kristi Hill, director of the CCE. “We’re really trying to educate Lawrentians on their civic responsibility as citizens of this world. And to not just serve, but to inform them on social justice issues that could be of importance to them. So, the name better reflects what we do.”

Being part of the retooled and reenergized CLC also provides new paths, as well as better efficiency in connecting service work with resume building.

“The benefits have been, we’re now with a department that is really focused on the experiential education or journey of Lawrence students,” said Hill. “Focused on volunteerism and internships and networking and creating your own community, those are kind of like-minded things our office shares with the CLC.”

Even with the rebranding, the CCE still serves as a resource on campus for students who would like to volunteer. CCE staffers help students with everything from getting connected with nonprofits they can volunteer with to hosting volunteer opportunities on campus. 

Last year, the CCE implemented a new program called Viking Ambassadors in Service and Engagement (VASE), a program focused on first-year students to help them make connections and learn about issues in the community. It drew 33 first-year students, spread across five VASE programs — greater access to the arts, supporting fair housing and hunger, advocating and care for elders, protecting and sustaining the environment and allied health care.

“Certificate programs are tailored to each service area,” said Papo Morales ’21 , equal access to education coordinator at the CCE. “Students, preferably first-years, are really involved and engage in this one specific service area. Last year, they did service trips, they did events, it was an amazing thing.”  

The CCE will continue the VASE program this year, with increased funding that will allow more opportunities. 

Alongside the VASE program, the CCE provides Lawrence students with lots of opportunities to serve.  

Lawrence students pick vegetables in the SLUG Garden during Welcome Week.
Lawrence students volunteer in the Sustainable LU Gardens during Welcome Week.

One program is Service Corps, run by students on the CCE staff.  Each Service Corps enclave is geared toward addressing social justice issues in the Fox Cities. The student in charge of the group partners with community agencies. There are seven Service Corps groups: Access to Education, Child Advocacy, Elder Advocacy, Environment and Sustainability, Arts Advocacy, Fair Housing and Hunger, and, starting this year, Animal Welfare.  

Tutoring in area schools has been a big draw for Lawrence students through the CCE’s Volunteers in Tutoring at Lawrence (VITAL) program. During the 2018-19 school year, the CCE was able to connect 41 Lawrence students with 83 Appleton school district students who requested tutoring. 

Nine programs were offered by the CCE to support environment and sustainability needs. Overall, 62 volunteers served 1,134 hours toward those causes.

There were 19 programs geared toward the support of elders at Brewster Village, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and the Thompson Community Center on Lourdes. This allowed 57 Lawrence volunteers to serve 333 hours to support elder rights and care. 

In addition to individual service opportunities available to students, the CCE offers assistance to Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) student organizations that do volunteer work. Many of these organizations had CCE staff as advisors, and all of them had access to the resources the CCE provides, including the GivePulse software used by the CCE, financial support, and service 101 training.

“The CCE really, really, really tries to connect with our service organizations,” said Morales. “We support them in any way that we can. If students are interested in starting a service organization, we are more than happy to help them. Last year, some athletes had come in and said, ‘Hey, we want to start a service organization.’ They came in with just an idea and by the end of last year, they were fund-raising for stuff. So, if you’re passionate about starting a service organization, all you have to do is come in and we will help.”  

Morales even started a service organization of his own through his connection with the CCE. It’s called Brother to Brother, a men-of-color empowerment organization aimed at cultivating leadership and brotherhood and providing service and advocacy in the community.

“I really wanted to have service be a part of our messaging,” said Morales. “So, our pillars are brotherhood, leadership, and service.”  

Last year, Brother to Brother was able to serve a multitude of organizations, including Edison Elementary School. This gave the students in the organization the chance to explore parts of the Appleton community they were not familiar with. 

“Things they wouldn’t do before, like they wouldn’t know they loved working with kids,” said Morales. “And when we took them to this recess, they fell in love.”

When students volunteer, it not only positively impacts the students they’re serving, but it also greatly benefits the organizations.

“The teachers there have shared, there’s too much for them to do in the time they have provided,” said Hill. “So, when Lawrence students can spend time with individual students who need extra support, the teachers are relieved and able to focus on instruction and looking for funding and other things to grow the school. They openly talk about it, that Lawrence students allow them to do more. So that’s been a really cool thing to see at Edison Elementary School.”  

The CCE will continue to provide Lawrence students with resources as the school year ramps up.

“We really do encourage people to just walk in and say, ‘Hey, I want to volunteer,’” said Morales. “We have a revamped space, so we really encourage students to come in … someone is always on staff here to answer questions and to help you volunteer. But if you don’t have the time and your schedule is really busy, we encourage all student just to go to GivePulse. You can go on the Lawrence web site and type in GivePulse on the search bar. That is where we house all of our volunteer opportunities.”  

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.