Improve yourself by improving your community

Flip through any student planner these days, and you will see class scheduled Monday through Thursday, scattered internship hours, student organization meetings, and sometimes a part-time job over the weekend. Emersonians are a busy bunch, but I can’t help thinking something is missing from the typical weekly schedule.

Take a walk downtown and you will find several homeless shelters. Venture out of our three-block radius and you can find an understaffed community project. Emerson is located in an area of Boston in need of action by its local students. Just look around and it becomes obvious what that weekly planner needs.

Community service is more beneficial than many of the internships students undertake. The responsibility placed on volunteers is much heavier than on interns. A community service volunteer is usually necessary to the success of the project. Their suggestions are taken into consideration by superiors; compare that to the menial work interns are delegated.

Rather than go through the motions at an internship, be the action. Dedicate your time and work to produce something meaningful, rather than pick up where the last intern left off. As an intern, you are often not missed once your replacement arrives.

Community service is beneficial for your social and professional life, and no, not only in the sappy context. Community service equips you with certain traits, knowledge, and abilities, making you more marketable to employers. Volunteers are required to have self-initiative and resourcefulness as well as critical and creative skills for their service work. Participating in community service allows for introspection and encourages a person to be more understanding of others.

Suzanne Hinton, the associate director of the Office for Service Learning and Community Action, reported that in 2010, 1,800 Emerson students clocked 51,000 total service hours. These hours were valued at approximately $1,457,000 for local communities, given that the 2010 value of a Massachusetts service hour was $28.52.

Of those 1,800 participants, 51 students were enrolled in the Jumpstart program and were responsible for 14,515 hours themselves. According to my calculations, students not involved with Jumpstart dedicated 21 hours each over the course of the year. In the time it takes to watch season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer again, you could volunteer and generate nearly $600 for the local community.

My experience with community service dates back to middle school. I started  working with the local Special Olympics team by shadowing the athletes during practices and games. This lead to my involvement with the Walk for Autism in Boston and Manchester, which connected me to helping clean up public parks, collecting can donations for food banks and later serving at shelters in Downtown Crossing.

The early exposure only encouraged me to participate more, and I know I have reaped the benefits from my involvement. I have a better understanding of the diversity and complexities of the world, and have directed my future career path in the nonprofit sector.

Community service doesn’t need to be local, though. World Hunger reported in 2010 there were 925 million people living hungry. The World Health Organization states that approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women have been victim to female genital mutilation. Just because we do not bear witness to the issues affecting our global community does not mean they do not exist.

Rather than spending a couple of hours Facebook stalking the seemingly attractive and mysterious fellow in your Costume and Make-up Design class or wasting an entire afternoon going through @Lord_Voldermort7’s Twitter comments, get involved with an issue you take interest in. Do you want to lower the homeless population in Boston? Would you like to reduce Emerson’s “carbon footprint”? Maybe you could get the attractive, mysterious fellow to join you and fit something new into those gaps in your weekly planner.