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Giving back for big bucks

When it comes to balancing schoolwork, a social life and possibly a job, time is a
precious commodity for students in college. Volunteering may be the last thing on one’s agenda, but that may change — students could soon make money from it.

The Obama administration is helping push for civic involvement on a national level by offering incentives for college students to volunteer. A proposed bill in Congress  would include a $4,000 grant for students who log 100 hours or more of community service per year.

Also, the education award for students who complete service in AmeriCorps, an organization that provides service opportunities, would be increased to $5,350. Middle and high school students could earn a $500 education award towards college after completing a summer of service.

For those looking to get involved on campus, the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) offers various community service projects. Bulls Serve and Blast are a few of the volunteer programs offered through the CLCE. Philanthropic programs include Dance Marathon —  which will take place Friday — and Relay for Life. 

The CLCE also offers awareness programs such as hunger awareness week and Get Carded, which raises awareness of organ donation. Stampede of Service is another large program that takes place annually over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community,” said Patrick Howland, a junior majoring in chemistry who works in the CLCE.

Howland has participated in BLAST, Stampede of Service and several other programs.

“I love volunteering and love helping people get involved in volunteering,” Howland said.

The level of involvement for students varies from project site leaders to ‘sign up and show up’ projects, such as Bulls Serve.

During the last school year, 16,165 people volunteered through the CLCE and contributed about 129,000 hours of service, said CLCE associate director Amy Simon.

Whether it’s for civic duty, money or strong passion about an issue, students volunteer for various reasons.

“Some students volunteer as an activity to get connected, while others volunteer to make an impact on their world,” Simon said. “There’s really no wrong reason to volunteer.”

Howland said he got involved after hearing about friends’ stories of helping the community.

Some students are required to volunteer to meet certain requirements for school or scholarships but continue because they enjoy it.

“I first started volunteering because it was obligatory in high school, but then I realized I liked it,” said Elsa Etienne, a CLCE volunteer.

Simon said though the country faces one of the worst recessions in decades, volunteering is still a good idea because time is just as important as money when it comes to helping the community.

“Volunteering is a good way to gain new skills and experiences,” Simon said. “It provides an opportunity to try something new.”

Volunteering not only helps the community — it can help students find a career path. Simon said she talked to many students who decided to change their major after volunteering.

“It’s a good testing ground in which students can find their niche,” she said.

No matter how or why students get involved, Simon said, most end up a better person.

“It helps in small ways,” Etienne said. “If everyone could just volunteer a little, it would make a big impact.”