BY SOFIA LYNCH
The fall semester is off to a running start and many students are already scrambling to do everything they can with their time at Washtenaw Community College to build up their resumés or future college applications. Events like WCC’s annual Volunteer Fair provide opportunities for students to start stocking up on valuable work experience.
On Sept. 17, non-profit agencies from the surrounding area gathered outside of WCC’s Student Center to provide students with information on how to get involved in volunteerism.
“Overall, spreading awareness is kind of our goal here – letting more people know about what we’re doing around Washtenaw County, and just letting them know about different volunteer opportunities we have,” said Kyle Thornhill, a 27-year-old Habitat for Humanity representative, who has been with the organization for three years.
The organization United Way – as described by its representative, 34-year-old Amanda Reel – embodies the purpose of volunteer fairs like WCC’s.
“We’re here to help connect students with volunteer opportunities if they’re not sure where to start and the other big thing is that we have hundreds of opportunities. So I like to think of it as there is really something for everyone out there,” Reel said. “It’s great when a student can come to us and not have any idea about a specific volunteer role that’s out there and get connected with something that works for them.”
David Wildfong, professional services faculty for Career Services, addressed the ways that volunteerism can help people find employment.
“Part of the employment process right now that is really important is networking. Because so much job searching is done online, job searchers have a tendency to just sit in front of the computer and fill out applications, not really getting involved with what I call the ‘human element’ – which is where networking comes into play. So volunteering is just a type of networking,” Wildfong said. “It’s good for the soul, good for your community, but it’s also good for your future employment as well.”
Due to some last minute cancellations, only six non-profit organizations and one school club were present, as opposed to the approximate 20 that attended last year’s event. The fair was still alive and well, however; all of the agencies in attendance cited having a steady flow of traffic at their tables.
“We always get good feedback from the organizations that participate,” Wildfong said. “We usually do a survey follow-up the day or so after the event just to ask, ‘Is there anything better we could be doing to support you?’”
The United Way representative expressed her appreciation for events like these and the importance of public outreach for non-profit organizations.
“I think for a lot of organizations like ours, we don’t have time to build relationships with all the individual departments and meet students any other way, unless we’re just throwing it out there to the whole public,” Reel said. “So events like this give us a way to be on campus and show students there’s a whole other community out there of things they can get involved in.”