Giving freely, freely giving

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Volunteering, that selfless urge to serve others, is alive and well at St. cloud State

Into the Streets volunteers from left: senior Travis Gause, Lino Lakes, freshman Sara Asfeld, Kimball, Gina Palmer and Jason Finstad. Into the Streets was a Sept. 8, 2007, service day that saw 115 students volunteer at four St. Cloud locations.

Volunteering, that selfless urge to serve others, is alive and well at St. cloud State Jason Finstad, a marketing major, digs a trench for a lawn irrigation system in a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood. 

"Don’t do it because you think it would look good on your resume," said Gina Palmer, a senior special education major from Coon Rapids, Minn. "Do it because you want to. Do it because you want to do something good for someone else."

Service by St. Cloud State students may total as much as a million hours in a year, according to Beth Knutson-Kolodzne, coordinator of Volunteer Connection. That estimate is extrapolated from a 2006 SCSU Survey of 502 randomly selected students who reported averaging five hours of volunteering or service-learning work per month. Volunteer Connection supports and promotes volunteering and academic service-learning on campus.

Palmer, a 22-year-old senior, dug lawn irrigation trenches for Habitat for Humanity. She worked Hurricane Katrina relief in Mississippi during 2007 spring break. She mentored disabled 18- to 21-year-olds participating in the Community Options 2 collaborative between St. Cloud State and the St. Cloud school district. She works with disabled teenagers at Technical High School in St. Cloud.

"I absolutely love it," Palmer said of her service in Rodney Schindele’s special education classroom at Technical High. Palmer is a member of the campus chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), a professional organization that promotes the advancement and education of children with special needs. Palmer and two or three CEC colleagues volunteer at Technical High on alternate Wednesdays. The after-school visits are largely social, with plenty of visiting, snacking and card playing. But the high school students also ask questions about life at college and living away from home, Palmer said.

Jason Finstad, a senior marketing major from Richfield, says volunteering offers a means of getting out into the community.

"I like building relationships with people in the community," said Finstad, 22. Last fall Finstad joined Into the Streets, Volunteer Connection’s 115-student service blitz at four St. Cloud locations. Shovel in hand, water bottles tucked into the rear pockets of his jeans, Finstad dug lawn irrigation trenches in a Habitat for Humanity twin homes neighborhood in south St. Cloud. His goal this summer is to volunteer with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, he said.

Knutson-Kolodzne notes that improved campus-community relations are a key part of President Earl H. Potter III’s vision for St. Cloud State. Few things, she adds, can bridge the town-and-gown divide and enhance the University’s standing in the region better than community service.

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