Last Wednesday, October 16, a presentation that offered opportunities for students to become involved in volunteer philanthropist organizations occurred was held in the Mountain View Room at Keene State College.
The presentation was organized by Career Advisor Beverly Behrmann.
There were seven different organizations represented by six individuals; the Student Conservation Association, Teach for America, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WOOF) and the Network in Solidarity with the people of Guatemala (NISGUA.)
Each of the groups focuses on humanitarian efforts to improve global conditions, but each one does so in its own unique way.
“The educational benefit that students receive from these programs financially in terms of loan forgiveness or money towards loans is a great benefit and something to keep in mind,” Behrmann said.
Behrmann said she is a firm believer in social change and the better good of the world.
“I think it’s important for all of us as human beings to do some good in our lives. This doesn’t mean that we all have to work for a non-profit, but it’s an opportunity for people to give back to and work in their communities to really make a difference, ” Behrmann said.
“There are a lot of different avenues for students to go down, there’s profit, there’s nonprofit, there’s government, and so on, and to provide students with an idea of the different types of opportunities is really important,” she added.
The Student Conservation Association, represented by Georgie Sawyer, is a national non-profit organization that works to give students hands-on experience with different conservation efforts.
It’s hope is that by providing young people with this experience, it will create a generation of citizens more conscientious about protecting the natural world.
Teach for America, represented by Carrie Holmes, is another non-profit organization that seeks to improve the nation by giving special educational attention to areas of the country that need it the most.
They recruit, train and place college graduates in cities where the dropout rates are highest.
Individuals do not have to be certified in teaching to apply, and those who are not certified go through an intensive five-week training program prior to starting.
KSC senior Amanda Ribeiro commented on the importance of these opportunities.
“I think it’s important because people don’t realize how many people in the world need help, and some people are so sheltered to their little towns that they don’t know much about what’s going on elsewhere,” she said.
Perhaps the most well-known organization present was the Peace Corps, represented by Fern Aguada-Brown.
According to Aguada-Brown, the Peace Corps has three basic goals; to assist the people of interested countries in meeting their need for manpower, to assist in the understanding of Americans on the part of those in foreign countries, and finally, to assist in the understanding of those in foreign countries by Americans.
With these three goals, the Peace Corps aims to promote international peace and acceptance.
The Peace Corps requests a commitment just over two years, with three months of technical, cultural and language training prior to the departure.
The focuses of this volunteer work are health related matters, education, environmental efforts, youth development and community development.
“I like that each group has different benefits, some help you towards your loans, it’s like you help us and we’ll help you,” Ribeiro said.
“It’s important for people to know that volunteering isn’t necessarily something boring, or just something to do with your life, or they don’t realize how much of an impact it actually has,” Ribeiro continued.
AmeriCorps, represented by Katie Joyce, is a federal program that puts college graduates into humanitarian work that will help to serve people in low income communities.
Work includes capacity building (which consists of mostly office work and grant writing), days of service (more hands on activity such as work at soup kitchen) and training where volunteers build skills that allow them to be effective in the fields of health, public safety, education and environment conservation.
Represented by Katie Floyd, City Year (which is similar to Teach for America) is a non-profit and education focused organization that serves 25 different cities in America.
“I think that opportunity to participate in a service organization after college is just one of the best things that people can do both professionally and personally as a young person, and I don’t think they necessarily get as much credit as other work opportunities and so I think it’s important to inform students that there’s an opportunity to do service full time and make it a career,” Floyd said when asked about the importance of bringing this information to campus.
According to Floyd, the group’s mission is to cut down on dropout rates where they are highest, with 50 percent of high school drop outs happening in only 12 percent of communities.
By providing extra people power, City Year hopes to be proactive in preventing dropouts.
The program is not solely for teachers, and anyone who is willing to make ten month commitment can apply.
However, it is a very selective program and approximately only one in five applicants were selected last year.
Some benefits of volunteering include a stipend for cost of living, training, networking and either scholarship opportunities or $5,000.
WWOOF is represented by Chrissy Raudounis, is not so much one organization as it is a loosely connected network of organizations that work to place volunteers on organic farms.
The network includes organizations from 99 countries where the purpose is to provide volunteers with cultural and experience based learning while creating a system that is based off an exchange of work rather than currency.
WWOOF volunteers work on their farms for four to six hours a day in exchange for food and housing.
Programs involved with WWOOF are diverse and individual, so people interested are urged to research about which farm works best for them and visit.
NISGUA, also represented by Chrissy Raudounis, is an organization that focuses specifically on aiding the nation of Guatemala.
The organization trains and provides observers from 11 different international organizations to work like a humanitarian towards social justice.
Volunteers are placed side by side with Guatemalan citizens, with hopes that an international visitor acting as a witness will cut down on violence and human rights violations inside of communities.
NISGUA asks volunteers for a six-month commitment to the group, some knowledge of both Latin America and human rights and the ability to speak Spanish.
“I’m glad that the school shows students that there are options regarding volunteer work and lets them know what they can do after school to broaden their horizons, “ sophomore Kara Gibson said, who was attended the presentation to learn more about Teach For America.
“When you consider the experience that you gain, the people that you’re going to meet and networking opportunities, and the loan forgiveness or tuition discount, I think it is definitely something students should think about,” Behrmann said.
Any students interesting in learning more about these programs can either visit their individual websites or contact Beverly Behrmann to learn more.
Behrmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the Academic and Career Advising office in the first floor of the Elliot Center.
Brendan Keenan can be contacted at email@example.com