Why aren’t Minneapolis students involved?

Throughout the course of the past two weeks, interviewed students from MCTC and the University of Minnesota have been answering the question “Are you or have you ever been involved in your community?”

Volunteering is a strong attribute of keeping a community together and supporting members of it as well. It offers the chance to help out in the area you live in alongside helping to educate about what is really happening to the people within the community. Volunteer America, an organization that aims at getting people involved in their communities, states, “Volunteering is the perfect way to feel connected to your community. The simple act of offering your skills and enthusiasm will positively impact the lives of others, as well as your own.”

Only 40 of the 100 students surveyed claimed to have ever been involved in their community and half of those students claim to be still involved. After asking many of the students why they weren’t involved, a typical answer was that they were too busy to volunteer. A handful also stated that they didn’t know how to be involved or where to start volunteering.

One student, who would like to remain anonymous, stated, “I would donate money if I were rich, but I don’t have time to give.”

Another student, Mark, said, “If I could find a way to be involved, I would be. I’d also have the issue of crunching it into my schedule, but I think it would be a good thing to consider doing.”

The number one reason given for not volunteering was lack of time. Most students are focused on financing school and living expenses alongside studying for their courses and keeping stable relationships with friends and partners. Many students said these stresses alone were enough for them to handle in their lives.

It is certainly not an issue due to lack of desire to be involved in the Minneapolis community, but how do we get students to find a way to incorporate giving back to their communities into their busy lifestyles?

MCTC can help students become involved. Currently, MCTC has a volunteer fair that will take place in March. Although this is a great opportunity for students to become involved, it is not enough. By incorporating college credit and coursework with volunteering, many more students could experience the joys of helping.

One example a student suggested was to have students studying ethics and other human rights related classes to have one volunteer class outing organized by the professor or the opportunity for extra credit by attending an event ran by volunteers. The professors could get creative with these assignments and have the students write about their experience and reflect back to how it affects their views on the subject material being covered in the course. She claimed that it would interest her and help her aspire to do more in her community. She also said she believed it would help students be exposed to the benefits of volunteering and that at least a few would continue to volunteer afterwards.

Another way MCTC could encourage volunteering is to have Volunteer America recruiters come in and talk to students. These recruiters can help students find a way to volunteer in their communities that fits in their schedule and interests them as well. Many organizations that need help work in combination with Volunteer America to find volunteers to help out, making them a great resource for finding opportunities.

The college could also have volunteer events on campus to encourage students to partake in volunteering. When Mark was asked if he would help out if MCTC were to have volunteering opportunities requiring little time and on campus he said, “If I had no homework to do immediately, I would definitely offer a hand. I think that if there is no commitment and a large amount of time isn’t required, a lot of students would join in.”

When asked if he had any ideas of a project that could make this possible, Mark brought up bringing an organization such as Feed My Starving Children onto campus for a day so that students could simply bag food for a half hour between classes.

The variety of ways a student can help out in their community is endless. Minneapolis has many opportunities such as volunteering in homeless shelters, delivering food to people in need, helping students learn English, and talking to people in hospitals and nursing homes. Whatever interests one may have, there is an opportunity that fits students’ interests.

MCTC needs to help students find these opportunities and encourage them to be more involved as well. Although the ways the college and students could go about volunteering are endless, something needs to be done to help them be exposed to their opportunities.