Many people are typically introduced to the idea of community service beginning in high school. As a young person, these opportunities may have presented themselves similar to chores outside of school. It may have been similar to a buzzing in your ear, slowly creeping up behind you to sentence you to hours in a nursing home, or a few days a week picking up trash at your local park. For many students, at the beginning they often participate due to required classes or other responsibilities handed to them.
But there is so much more to community service, from personal growth to the benefits neighborhoods receive and the improvements to the quality of life that come from these efforts.
On the heels of several SUNY campuses being awarded with the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, we’re here to give you 5 reasons on why, as a student, community service should become a priority in your life if it isn’t already.
When it comes to personal development, there is always room to grow. Community service allows you to practice not only good social skills, but build self-esteem, empathy, and learn from many perspectives depending on your community service activity. Volunteering can also give you a sense of purpose, allowing you to get out of your comfort zone and interact with different people, and make new connections.
Its a well-known fact that volunteering can have many mental health benefits. Studies have shown that by engaging in community service, you make connections that positively influence your mood, and can aid in coping with depression. People who volunteer may find themselves ditching that pattern of loneliness and isolation by involving themselves in mind occupying tasks that distract many from negative feelings/thoughts. A study conducted by John Hopkins University revealed that volunteering can actually increase brain functionality.
Not only can community service contribute to coping with depression, it can also improve your physical health. Community service can increase physical activity, which can contribute to lower blood pressure. It can also reduce stress, which is often linked to bad health diagnoses.
For high school students, community service is crucial when applying to your dream school. For a lot of colleges, your volunteer experience can go a long way to showing your dedication to your community, as well as assisting you in creating a great admissions essay prior to your enrollment. Colleges don’t just want to see those grades. They want to know that you have stepped outside your classroom and engaged with your community. If you can show that you care about your community and have a likelihood of being involved in your school’s campus life, those are traits that are in demand. In fact, a recent survey of college admission officers showed that 53% of admissions officers agreed that community service could be a “tie-breaker” between equally qualified students.
Attention soon-to-be college graduates, the time is here to start searching for potential opportunities. The process can be long, hard, and stressful. For some jobs, the company you are interested in may value community service leaders, including volunteers. Why? Well, your community service may have taught you skills that you can use to benefit your employer. A study conducted by the Center for Economic & Policy Research, found that community service increases your chances of receiving an offer. Unemployed individuals who participated in between 20-99 hours of community service a year, were about 7% more likely to gain employment.
Participating in community service allows students to be active within their community while also leaving a positive impact on society at any scale. You can show initiative by donating cans to your school’s food pantry, recycle plastic you find throughout your neighborhood, clean up your local community park, or perhaps host a clothing drive for people in need. When you personally engage in these types of activities, you see the results of your hard work right in front of you. Whether you help 2 people or a whole neighborhood, the good feelings will be shared and felt far beyond the immediate impact. The possibilities for how we can do this are endless, and the benefits alone should encourage you to make a move today.
If you have any other community service ideas, feel free to share and list them in the comments below!
Anissa Williams is a Communications Intern in the Office of Press & Communications at SUNY, graduating in the spring with a bachelors in Communications.