Volunteer!

Hands holding jellybeans

Pretend that these are your hands, and the jellybeans are all the good things you can share with your community by volunteering. Just try it. (photo courtesy of Andrew Gray)

Even with all your summer class homework, and with all the movies that Netflix and the UGL Media Collection can provide you with, you may still find yourself with extra time on your hands this summer. Instead of watching reruns of Portlandia for the second day straight, why not give that extra time to someone in need by becoming a volunteer?

Volunteering has many benefits, not only for the person or organization you give your time to, but for you yourself. It can connect you with people you might have never met otherwise, teach you new skills (or new ways to apply skills you already have), and can help buff up that resume you’ve been working on with help from the Career Center (who are open for regular hours this summer, by the way!). The downtime that summer provides may be a good window in which to seek out a new volunteer opportunity, but don’t treat it as just a summer fling – your help is needed all year long, and the best volunteer experiences come when you really invest your time and effort. Consider picking a project or location where you can continue to lend your aid when the school year starts again.

Once you’ve decided you want to volunteer, where should you go to actually start? One great place to find a lot of different opportunities is the CU Volunteer page. Many different organizations in the Champaign-Urbana area use this site to list their volunteer opportunities, and you can sign up to help through the site as well. You can see a list of current opportunities, or you can browse by organization to see if a specific group has volunteer opportunities.

For campus-specific volunteering, you can visit the Office of Volunteer Programs inside the Illini Union. If you have a specific area of interest that you’d like to volunteer in, you can also search around for websites of organizations in that area that might need help – for instance, for those interested in sustainability and agriculture, the Sustainable Student Farm has need of student volunteers all year round. The University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System also has volunteer opportunities for those wanting to become more familiar with hospital settings.

Give your time and energy, and in return get new experiences, new contacts, and the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from helping someone out.
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