College students should volunteer more


Alexandra Rose Nicolas

At Tuesday night’s Neighborhood Adult Literacy Action (NALA) Spell Ball fundraiser it wasn’t what I saw that surprised me. It’s what, or rather who, I didn’t see that left me disheartened.

The world of non-profit volunteering is tight-knit. You see most of the same people at every event. What you don’t see are college students.

A 2010 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed what I had long thought, that “persons in their early 20s were the least likely to volunteer.”

I’m not new to the world of volunteer work and know, as anyone who works with non-profits soon realizes, that it’s not unusual to see the same retirees and young mother and daughter teams at a community garden fundraiser one day and cooking a free meal for the homeless the next.  

Why, I thought as I sat in a room full of NALA volunteers, most being 15 or 20 years my senior, do the people in some of the best positions to freely give their time, not chose to do so?

While most of my fellow 20-somethings are, like me, in the process of graduating from college and trying to secure placement in “the real world” those burdens shouldn’t impede us from donating a little of our time.

Many recent graduates are not yet restrained by families, have a broad skill set and should be used to working for nothing. While two or three hours a week wouldn’t cost most of us anything, it means a lot to the organizations you donate your time to.

Independent Sector, a coalition of charities, non-profit organizations and foundations, estimates that in 2010 one hour of a volunteer’s time was worth $21.36. That statistic is used mostly so organizations can calculate the combined value of their volunteer’s hours, but it throws into sharp relief how much volunteers are worth.

While I’m ashamed my age bracket performs so poorly in the volunteer world, I do have to give credit to the young adults working toward a better community. College Greek organizations, chastised for having too much of a good time, often make community service a fundamental part of their group. I’ve run into Chart writer, columnist, ‘frat boy’ and generally tactless pain-in-the-ass Nathan Mills at more than one charity event in the past year. And while college students may not be running non-profit events, I do see lots of people my age participating in charity tournaments and contests.

All of us could do a lot by donating a little time, even just $21.36 worth, to the people and causes that could use it the most. It’s not difficult to find organizations that fit your interests and would probably be more than willing to put you to work.

Upcoming April 11-16 is National Volunteer Week. The event is meant as a time to recognize volunteers for their services, but it’s not a bad time to go out and find a cause worth working for.