It’s a Saturday morning and the garden level of the 1940 residence hall is vacant. All of the students can be found in North Philadelphia, handing out free food, working sand art tables with children and supervising a wide array of games.
Many of the neighbors at the block party that day did not realize these Temple students were sacrificing their Saturday to volunteer.
But according to sophomore advertising major Nicole Clause, who volunteered that day, it was easy to see how thankful the neighbors were and how important a community really is.
“I got to stand back and watch how the community worked together,” Clause said.
Clause is just one student at Temple actively involved in community service. She is a member of the Residential Organization for Community Service, a living-learning community based in the garden level of 1940. This year Clause lives in Temple Towers West, but ROCS students can request to live on the living-learning community floor in 1940 during their freshman and sophomore years.
This is Clause’s second year involved with ROCS, and she would encourage anyone to join. But then again, Clause has always been involved in community service and even received a Rotary award for community service her senior year of high school.
Clause is certainly a role model with her optimistic attitude. She does admit that at first she was intimidated to perform community service in North Philadelphia. But she insists that the Philadelphians benefiting from her volunteer efforts are nicer than she expected.
“The people walking down the street, who look like they’re going to bite your head off … if you give them a smile, they smile back,” she said. “Just try it sometime. You just need to tap into that personality.”
Many community service opportunities exist for students to tap into. Jason Riley, the assistant director of Community Service who oversees most of Temple’s community service organizations, said that it’s hard to get an accurate account of how many volunteer opportunities are available because some organizations are solely based on volunteerism; whereas other groups, like Greek organizations, volunteer on the side.
With so many opportunities available on campus, almost anyone interested can find a volunteer group to fit their interests. Riley is always ready to meet with students unsure about what type of volunteer projects are best for them.
“I love meeting one-on-one with students,” he said. Riley recommends that students unsure about volunteering participate in some one-day events. Students can also join the community service listserv to learn about upcoming events.
One-day events include Philadelphia Cares Day, community cleanups, snow shoveling projects, garden working and Habitat for Humanity building projects. One-day events are particularly suitable for students because it’s so easy to get involved.
“A lot of people complain about not knowing how to get involved,” Clause said. “But [through the listserv] you can sign up for events and just go.”
Besides one-day events, Temple has three main volunteering organizations for students: ROCS, Temple University Community Service Association and Habitat for Humanity. The three programs are directly under Temple’s community service department and are funded by the university.
To get involved in these organizations, students should contact the organization directly through e-mail. Contact information and more information about each group can be found on Temple’s Community Service Web site.
Other special volunteering opportunities take place for a few weeks over winter, spring or summer break and are also available to students. Past projects have included working with communities in Mexico, South Dakota and Florida, as well as spending the summer volunteering with Temple Police’s Equestrian Program for kids. Because these programs need a limited amount of volunteers, those interested are required to apply. Information about these opportunities can also be found on the community service Web site.
In addition to volunteering as an extracurricular activity, some majors have classes that require service learning. Novella Keith, associate professor of the Interdisciplinary Urban Education Program, is a strong advocate for these classes.
“[Service learning] deepens students’ understanding of abstract concepts,” Keith said. “When working in the field, students have an ‘aha’ moment. [It] motivates students and promotes connections between the university and the community.”
A strong connection with local North Philadelphia residents is one of Riley’s main goals. When Riley began his job at Temple in 2004, he started meeting with the residents around Temple. These meetings have helped Temple’s community service projects to address the needs of local North Philadelphians.
“Fifteen years ago, there was no communication between Temple and local residents; it wasn’t a priority,” Riley said. “Now, local residents are comfortable enough discussing simple issues, which is very telling of the current relationship.”
Riley also experiments with new programs, adding new ones each semester and seeing which ones are most beneficial.
Riley works to increase student involvement. Advertising for programs has increased, including posters, boards in the Student Center, the listserv and a volunteer fair.
Riley also talks to students at orientation, informing incoming freshmen about opportunities and reasons for volunteering at Temple.
One reason to get involved is to see the same thankful faces that volunteers like Clause see every time they volunteer. Philadelphia’s tag line, the City of Brotherly Love, “may be corny, but it’s true,” Clause said.
Morgan Ashenfelter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.