Student volunteers make a difference

10-23-2006

Last week, the Associated Press carried an article describing how volunteerism is on the rise among college students, and currently stands at a rate more than double that of other volunteers.

I suspect that might surprise a lot of people elsewhere, but not here. The whole idea of giving something back to the community is woven into the fabric of Michigan State, and has been since its founding.

This morning’s State News highlights some recent efforts. There was the annual “Into the Streets” event, sponsored by MSU’s Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, which included some 14 different projects around the Lansing area, and the Red Cedar Cleanup, held every fall and spring by the Fisheries & Wildlife Club and other organizations, to remove trash and debris from the river and its banks.

As is appropriate, as MSU transforms its land-grant mission to world-grant, our students’ volunteer efforts extend past the boundaries of our campus and around the world.

An excellent example announced earlier this month involved two MSU urban and regional planning students—Ryan Cook and Scott Pitera—working in close collaboration with community mentors in Mayo Abbey Parish Community in Ireland. Their project, part of an MSU Study Abroad program, won first place in the small village category of the all-Ireland Pride of Place Competition.

Michigan State is a founding member and continuing supporter of LATTICE (Linking All Types of Teachers for International Cross-cultural Education), an international education partnership in mid-Michigan that links six school districts with international graduate students and scholars.

Local students volunteer to help welcome new international students at fall orientation, helping to make MSU a welcoming environment.

And MSU’s annual Global Festival on November 19th is built entirely around international students who volunteer their time to share their culture and talents with the local community.

At times of national and international need MSU students have risen to the challenge and organized relief efforts. In fact, our response to Hurricane Katrina earned MSU recognition “With Distinction for Hurricane Relief Service” in the first-ever President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll program.

John Hannah said that being able to contribute to helping people live more satisfying lives, “is probably the most meaningful of life’s satisfactions.” Today I ask each of you to ask yourselves, “How am I going to be part of that?”

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