The 2013 Washington Monthly College Guide places Indiana State at the top of its list of 281 national universities in the category of community service participation and hours worked by students, faculty and staff. Students answer the question, “Why do you volunteer?”
Students are proud of Indiana State’s No. 1 national ranking for community service. From different backgrounds and walks of life, they share a common desire to serve; they live and breathe community engagement every day.
Freshman Ashley Richardson of Gary came to Indiana State with an already-lengthy community service resume. She had to complete 40 hours of community service prior to her high school graduation from Thea Bowman Leadership Academy.
As a high school student, she spent two summers at Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore refurnishing cabins and educating the public about preserving the park grounds. She also volunteered as a mentor at the same Boys and Girls Club in Gary she attended when she was younger.
“I like working with the little kids,” Richardson said. “It reminded me of how when I was a kid and having someone to talk to and look up to.”
At Indiana State, Richardson participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Spring Donaghy Day, Stop & Serve events and two service-learning field trips. She helped clean up parts of Indianapolis on one trip and served at Sojourner Truth’s Women’s Shelter in Gary. Pretty active for a new student pursuing a dual major in information technology and automation control.
“It was really nice to give back to my hometown,” she said.
Richardson received the Blue Leaf Award from the Center for Student Success for outstanding dedication to community service by a 21st Century Scholar.
Sarah Molter, a junior elementary and special education double major from Earl Park, also began her community service as soon as she stepped onto Indiana State’s campus when she heard about Alternative Spring Break.
“I would email the lady in charge of it about once a week once school started, asking when it was time to sign up,” she said. “I went my first year and just fell in love with it.”
Her Alternative Spring Break trips have taken her to Tennessee, West Virginia and most recently, the Dominican Republic. This year, she served as the first president of the newly created Alternative Spring Break club, which raises funds for students wanting to participate in trips.
She called her spring break experiences both rewarding and humbling.
“It just teaches me every single year to be grateful for what I have,” she said. “I know that they get stuff from us, but I receive so much more from them, I feel like.”
Molter said she has “defining” moments from each trip, but the one that sticks out the most to her comes from the time she spent with a one-year-old girl in a Dominican orphanage.
“We had a language barrier, because I couldn’t speak Spanish, and she couldn’t speak English, so we were just playing,” she said. “She just plopped down on my lap, and we were friends the whole time we were there. It was awesome, because we didn’t need language. Love is a universal language.”
Brandon Harris, a senior management major from Las Vegas, has also served children during his time at Indiana State. As a member of the AmeriCorps program, he volunteered at the McMillan Center, Vigo County Head Start and Chances and Services for Youth (CASY). He also is a big brother through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“It’s not just about giving back for a resume-builder, but giving back because it comes from your heart,” he said.
Harris also serves Indiana State through his work as president of Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, a senator in the Student Government Association and a member of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.
Harris received the Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow award for his community service contributions. He credits Indiana State for getting students involved in service learning early in their collegiate career.
“We get the freshmen involved as soon as they get to campus and then on top of that, the organizations here do a lot of community service,” he said.
Although these students each participate in different community service projects on campus, their stories share one common thread: They were not asked to volunteer to meet class requirements.
“I just wanted to get involved,” Richardson said.
All three students agree that Indiana State’s No. 1 community service ranking says a lot about Sycamores.
“It’s something we should be proud of because we are changing Terre Haute, but we are also changing outside of Terre Haute as well,” Molter said.