Volunteer groups seek student help

Student members of Volunteer USF serve the Tampa Bay area to benefit the community and themselves. Students in the organization have served the community in ways ranging from a few hours a week tutoring students at local elementary schools to committing their spring break to helping at day cares and hospitals.

Amy Simon, coordinator for Volunteer USF, is planning to expand student participation in volunteering services to make a greater difference in the USF and Tampa Bay communities. According to Simon, it is important that the organization grow because it is a link between the campus and the Tampa Bay area.

Simon’s goal is to raise awareness at USF about the program in order to increase student involvement in community service.

“The students want to build something that is seen and known on campus, to make things happen,” Simon said. “The idea is for us to hold events and get out there in the community to make a difference, and the organization will become more visible that way.”

America Reads and AmeriCorps Hillsborough Reads are two programs that Volunteer USF focus on throughout the year. In both programs, students volunteer as literary tutors at local elementary schools.

According to Simon, students who complete 300 hours with America Reads are eligible to receive an education award up to $780 that can be applied toward loans.

In AmeriCorps Hillsborough Reads students must complete 900-1700 hours of service to be eligible for a $10,000 living allowance and up to a $4,725 education award.

The awards received are enough to cover living expenses and school expenses, according to Simon.

“Students can contribute to the community and in return they receive not only money for graduate school but valuable experience,” Simon said.

Simon said students come to volunteer because they may want to contribute for a personal reason or they may want to meet new people.

“Either way students who are involved gain great job experience and have an opportunity to try out work in their field,” Simon said. “Sometimes students get involved to fulfill a requirement and they get hooked.”

Members of Volunteer USF want to develop leadership skills so the organization can be student run. According to Simon, the leadership board students and Circle K International are planning to work on service projects with Volunteer USF.

Circle K is a volunteer organization at USF that is known for service projects such as Habitat for Humanity, Shriner’s Hospital visits and beach clean-ups.

Junior Sean Godfrey, president for Circle K, said he hopes his organization will benefit from working with Volunteer USF.

“I feel that as college students we have a responsibility to serve with our community and the less fortunate,” Godrey said.

Kahri Douglas, student assistant for Student Activities is helping Volunteer USF to become a larger organization now that it is an independent organization.

According to Douglas, last year the same coordinator managed Volunteer USF and the multicultural organization.

“There wasn’t enough involvement and we were overlooked,” Douglas said. “Now that we are separate Volunteer USF can get more attention.”

Douglas said, since Volunteer USF will be a separate organization the members can focus more on the projects and getting students involved.

He said Volunteer USF members plan to get the message out to students with its list serv, flyers and during orientation sessions to let students know that community service is important.

“Students gain experience, leadership and a positive feeling when serving their community,” Douglas said.

Douglas, also coordinator for Alternative Breaks, a Volunteer USF program in which students provide community service during spring break outside of Tampa, is planning for next year’s trip.

“We are planning to travel as long as we have the funding, and all students at USF are welcome to participate,” Douglas said. “We are provided housing and we provide community service anywhere from a soup kitchen to a nursing home.”

Now that Volunteer USF has its own office and leadership board, it is planning to become more involved and to become a larger organization, Douglas said.

“We are going to get Greeks and other organizations involved in community service and get out there and give our help to make a greater Tampa Bay area,” Douglas said.

For more information about Volunteer USF please call 974-5053 or e-mail vservices@admin.usf.edu.