South Bend’s student ambassadors find time to volunteer
Originally organized as campus diplomats, the student ambassadors for Purdue’s College of Technology at South Bend have expanded their activities to include outreach and community service. The Fall 2012 semester has been a busy one for the ambassadors, who have taken on three separate projects around the South Bend community.
Twice during the semester, a group of students volunteered their time at the South Bend Pet Refuge. They worked on organizing supplies and sprucing up the facility. They also spent time with the dogs and cats, keeping them socialized and adoptable.
“It was the best kind of volunteer work,” said ambassador Dan Cole, a senior from South Bend. “It didn’t seem like work at all,” he said.
More recently, members of the ambassadors helped with a local Habitat for Humanity project, installing sod for a newly completed home.
“Sometimes when you give back you can’t see immediate results or communicate with the person you are helping,” said ambassador Nicole Spencer, a junior from Elkhart. “Habitat has fast results, and you can work beside the person who is benefiting from your work.” The student ambassadors anticipate future collaborations with the Habitat group.
These types of activities serve many purposes. In addition to providing sweat equity for an organization, it helps with team-building within the ambassador group, and it helps create more awareness about Purdue’s programs in South Bend.
The group’s final service project for 2012 will be adopting two families from the Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program for Christmas to ensure they have necessities and presents to celebrate the holiday.
During Spring 2013, the ambassadors will focus more on recruiting new students and engaging younger students in technology and engineering studies. They already have a relationship with area Project Lead the Way schools and with the help of Matt Bellina, extension educator from the Purdue Extension Service of St. Joseph County, they hope to reach more middle-school aged students with similar education messages.
The ambassadors have experience in getting younger students excited about STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math). They have been successful in distilling the lessons they learn in majors such as mechanical engineering technology and electrical engineering technology into easy to understand hands-on projects.
“We have put together demonstrations for kids that are interactive,” Cole said. “You can see a spark in their eyes as they start to make connections between the projects and the things they learn. Hopefully, it gets them interested in STEM and thinking about new things.”
Nationwide, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 2.5 million college students are engaged in community service activities annually. Their service translates into 105 million hours of work.
“These students are busy people with classes to attend, homework to do, and part-time jobs, and still they find time to volunteer their time and talents in the community,” said Mike Sanders, director of the Purdue College of Technology at South Bend. “We are very proud of the ambassadors.”