Nation challenges students to volunteer
November 18, 2011
The 2011 campus “Champions of Change” challenge was recently announced in a press release from the White House. The program is being put on with collaboration from mtvU and MTV Act. “Champions of Change” is challenging college and university students all around the nation to submit an application that consists of three essay questions and an optional video or photo project to illustrate what they or their group has been doing for their community, according to the press release.
Fifteen finalists will be chosen by a panel of judges and the final five will be voted on by the public. The winners will be invited to the White House for an event and will be given the oppurtunity to work with mtvU and MTV act to film a segment for the mtvU’s “The Dean’s List.”
In the press release, President Obama said that he recognizes that students from all over America are helping the country “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”
“I hope this challenge shines a light on their efforts and inspires Americans of all ages to get involved in their communities,” said Obama.
Courtney Haas, the community service programmer working with Falcon Programs, responded to Obama’s statement and said, “I think that specifically, for our campus, we are taking steps to do these things with community service.”
Haas highlighted a new program called Rock the Cause which encourages students to take part in community service opportunities. After they have completed 15 hours of service, they can log into OrgSync and reflect on the activity and what they’ve learned, according to Haas. There are roughly 125 students already signed up for Rock the Cause.
There are other groups on campus like the Actionist Network, alongside the Pay it Forward Committee, which creates “smaller, on-campus opportunities,” according to Haas.
“We do certain things like writing letters to soldiers or veterans,” said Haas. Last year, the program raised $777 with their Second Hand Relay for Life Sale. This year, they are working with TOMS shoes which is a “one for one, where you buy a pair of shoes and they donate one to a kid in need,” said Haas.
The Pay It Forward Committee will be participating in a “Day Without Shoes” walk where members will walk for one mile without footwear to create awareness for those without proper shoes for their daily life, a worldwide problem that TOMS has been addressing since 2006.
“A lot of opportunities that we offer do create more of the awareness pieces and help students to get more educated on it so they feel more comfortable being active in an organization like that,” Haas said. “I definitely think that educating students on the social issues is a huge part of service, along with being able to take part in actually doing the service and being able to reflect on what you’ve done and being able to go out and do it again after doing it with a group.”
Haas stressed that there are service opportunities for everyone. “Just tweaking it towards what you are really interested in makes it a lot more fun and just being able to know that you’re giving back to your community and helping others.”
One group that is most certainly tweaking their service activities to fit their interests is one of the campus’ newest service organizations, Muggles United, which is comprised of Harry Potter fans with an eye on promoting literacy and community service. Vice President of Muggles United Erin Hunter said that the name was chosen as a reference to the non-magical characters in the best selling book series. “We’re students,” Hunter said. “We’re not rich people, we don’t have all this influence, we’re just regular people, but we’re standing together to make a difference.”
This is only the group’s first semester of operation so Hunter made it clear that most things are in the planning stage at this point. While they don’t have a date set for the event, Muggles United plans to rent out the amphitheater this spring for a screening of one of the Harry Potter films in a bid to raise money.
“In the future, we have some aspirations to do a tutoring program or working with the community to promote literacy and children reading,” Hunter said. “All of us were huge Harry Potter nerds and we grew up reading. We all see the value of it and I feel that it has decreased in society.”
Hunter said she agreed with Obama’s statements about community service. “The thing that’s going to help right now, other than jobs, are community things that will build hope, that will build a community, that will build a spirit. I think because we’re poor college students we really see that.”
Those interested in submitting their organization or community service actions to “Champions of Change” can find the application at www.White- House.gov/CampusChallenge.