Often, when one thinks about college student life – activities that happen outside of the classroom – the mind automatically pulls up images of Greek Life, athletics, or maybe a coffeehouse musician.
While these are some of the typical options for involvement in college, they don’t represent what truly happens when students get involved during their college years.
Waubonsee has many options for students to get involved during their time here. In addition to our 12 athletic teams, we host more than 45 student organizations with more being added every year; leadership opportunities such as speakers, honor societies and semester-long development programs; campus-wide events ranging from poets and musicians to dances and movies; and service or philanthropic opportunities offered every month, all year long.
Each of these options not only gives students a chance to meet others, but also develops a wide range of skills such as leadership, delegation, time management, responsibility, attention to detail, critical thinking and more. These activities are important for students’ personal growth and contribute to their marketability when applying for jobs or other positions.
Involvement while in college, particularly with service and philanthropy, also leads to involvement in the community and caring about people and issues larger than oneself. Waubonsee is fortunate to have strong connections with many of the nonprofit agencies in our district, and our students are passionate about making a difference.
During the 2016-17 academic year, students participating in student organizations and campus events documented nearly 2,000 hours of service. Those 2,000 hours do not include donations made, money raised, the hundreds of students doing service on their own time and the hundreds of hours completed by our Gustafson Scholars every year. While some of these events are organized by the Student Life office, more than 21 events last year were organized by our student organizations who are passionate about giving back to their communities.
Some examples of events and activities are cleaning up local parks and rivers, raising money for Haiti disaster relief through a dodgeball tournament, organizing drives for various agencies and sponsoring local children during the holiday season to ensure families in need are also able to celebrate with gifts and needed items. The number of events and documented service hours completed by Waubonsee students grows each year as the passion and dedication of our student body grows.
Waubonsee also sends 10 to 20 students to another part of the country each March through our Alternative Spring Break program. Students raise money to fund their travel and food expenses, spend two months educating themselves on a particular issue and then spend their spring break in service to an agency or cause in need.
For the 2018 spring break, the selected students will be going to Kentucky to build houses with Habitat for Humanity and learn about substandard living conditions and the factors that contribute to the issue. When the group comes back, they often reflect on what they saw and learned and then identify ways they can contribute to their own communities in a similar way.
Professionals in Student Life offices all across the country are working hard every day to provide these types of opportunities and experiences for students. The goal is not just to help them connect to their campus and feel at home – leading to better grades and higher graduation rates – but to foster their development and their leadership potential.
Whether they become president of a student organization, learn something from a campus speaker or implement a campus event designed to raise money for a cause, involvement during college often becomes a benefit to the student, institution and community. As the interest in leadership and service programs continues to grow, so does the potential for today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders who will make huge impacts in our communities.
We hope students all across the country are encouraged by their families, friends, teachers and others to get involved and become a part of that impact.
• Meg Junk is Waubonsee Community College's Student Life coordinator.