Community service was a huge part of my high school years. Every week in my sophomore year of high school, I would visit senior citizens in my hometown. In my junior year, I volunteered at my public library. And in my senior year, I worked with a local group to teach English as a second language.
But that stopped when went to college.
It's not that I didn't want to serve my community when I went to school. It's that I wasn't connected to my new community. When I left my hometown, I left all the organizations and ties that where I used to volunteer. Coming to college, I didn't know how to get involved again.
Many college students deal with this problem when they get to university. As they adjust to a new environment and a new lifestyle, social activism and volunteer work can take a backseat. But service is so important. It connects us to our community; it builds relationships; it helps our neighborhoods grow and develop. That's why I'm including 25 ways to “give back” to your community when you're still in college below.
1. Volunteer in a soup kitchen in your local city
You can find a list of food pantries and soup kitchens by state here.
2. Collect canned goods and foods to donate to a food drive
Feeding America has a list of their guidelines for food donations online!
3. Host an on-campus bake sale to raise money for a charity you care about
You could do this for any charity, but She's the First is a girls' education charity that I am really passionate about, and they even have a program for on-campus bake sales.
4. Volunteer at sustainable food centers to combat food insecurity
Hundreds of people throughout the country struggle with food insecurity, or not having access to healthy foods; organizations like the Sustainable Food Center try to combat this through community farming. See if there's a similar organization in your area!
5. Tutor children
Many children need extra help in school, but cannot afford tutoring. Most major cities have programs where college students and adults can volunteer to help these kids on a weekly basis. See if your city or college has one!
6. Volunteer at your local hospital
Hospitals don't just run on the work of nurses and doctors; they also need volunteers to survive! Almost every hospital has a volunteer program for people who can commit at least an hour a week. Visit the homepage of your local hospital to see if it does, too! Especially if you go to college in or near a city, public transportation to your local hospital is likely to be available.
7. Be a “Yellow Shirt” at Camp Sunshine on break
Camp Sunshine is a summer camp for children with life-threatening illness. All families attend completely for free, so Camp Sunshine runs on the labor of volunteers (who are called Yellow Shirts because of, well, our yellow tee shirts). Lots of college students volunteer during their winter, spring, or summer breaks. You can learn how to volunteer with Camp Sunshine here.
8. Get involved in causes with your religious community
Most religious communities have a special focus on community service or giving back; my church focuses on combating starvation and homelessness through volunteer work and donations. See if your religious organization or group on campus already has a cause, and if not, see if you can choose one together.
9. Volunteer at your local library
Many libraries have volunteer programs where you can help with everything from managing daily tasks for the library, to organizing events, to reading to children. Visit your local library's website to see if they have a volunteer program.
10. Have a clothing drive in your dorm
Get a group of people together to host a clothing drive in your dorm, where students can swap or trade their clothing for sustainability.
11. Get involved in an on-campus activist group
Find a group on campus that reflects a community or cause that you care about and see if you can get involved. Often these groups have regular volunteer or action opportunities.
12. Volunteer for a political group on- or off-campus
Especially considering this is an election year, now is a great time to get involved in politics. See if you can get involved in a political club on campus or volunteer for a campaign. Not sure who you side for? Check out ISideWith.
13. Volunteer locally to care for Veterans
DAV has a page of different ways to support veterans, including driving a van to get veterans to their appointments, or volunteering at a VA hospital.
14. Organize a Habitat build with your sorority or club
Habitat for Humanity often has groups from different college campuses come together to help build houses for those who do not have shelter. You can learn more about Habitat here.
15. Do something you love, for charity
Often, you can raise money for an organization you care about doing something you already love. For example, if you're a runner, participate in an MS Run to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis research. If you're a musician, put together a small charity event where you and your friends play music for donations. Find something that you love and are skilled in, and think about a creative way to use those talents for good.
That's all I've got, but I'd love to hear from you.