Student-driven Community Service Contributes to Fulfillment of University’s Mission
Make a guess as to how many boxes of cereal were collected by students. Email your guess to ivyLink@psu.edu.
Community service performed by Penn State Altoona students has become as large a part of the undergraduate experience as researching term papers, taking exams, and engaging in extracurricular activities.
Prior to the final week of classes during the 2012 fall semester, students donated approximately 740 boxes of cereal to a drive sponsored by Penn State Altoona’s Office of Student Life and Student Government Association. The initiative benefited St. Vincent DePaul Assumption Chapel Food Pantry in Altoona. Students, faculty, and staff also contributed an assortment of non-perishable food items.
Two other fall semester service projects were equally successful. Through the Angel Tree program benefiting Family Services Incorporated of Altoona, 150 toys and clothing items were distributed to fifty children throughout the community. Also, the Hurricane Sandy relief drive netted enough clothing and supplies to fill two vehicles that transported the items to impacted families in Newark, New Jersey.
Impressively, the cereal drive is just one of several dozen community service projects Penn State Altoona students have already adopted this academic year. Since classes began last August, students have contributed their time and talents to numerous projects benefitting charitable and non-profit organizations such as the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, Domestic Abuse Shelter, United Way of Blair County, Toys for Tots, Altoona Community Theatre, American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, Penn State Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, and American Red Cross, to name but a few.
“From the minute our students walk on campus in the fall, we stress the importance of service through our Voluntoona program,” said Nikki Runzo, assistant director of Student Life. “During Voluntoona, approximately 800 freshmen, orientation leaders, and resident assistants participate in various community service projects. Our goal is for the students to give back to the community that gives so much to them. The best part about the program is when the students return to campus with big smiles on their faces, knowing they did something good. From there, it snowballs over the course of the year. This fall we had overwhelming support from the students for our cereal drive, hurricane relief efforts, and angel tree program. They really stepped up.”
As community service chair for Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority at Penn State Altoona, Mary Mulhollen organized and participated in over 2,000 hours of community service during the 2011-12 academic year. During the 2012 fall semester, nearly two dozen non-profit and charitable organizations on campus and in the community benefited from her efforts as an event leader and volunteer.
“Honestly, there has never been a time when I have wanted to turn down a volunteer opportunity,” said the senior from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. “I have always wanted to help others. So far I have dedicated the most time to animals and children. I have traveled to Nicaragua and Hawaii on service trips. There is no better feeling than receiving a look of appreciation or simply knowing that you made someone’s job, day, or life better because of something you personally did. “
In addition, Penn State Altoona’s Dance Marathon Committee annually ranks as a leader among the Penn State commonwealth campuses in the fundraising competition. Last year, the committee raised nearly $83,000. A record $10.6 million was raised by Penn State students in support of Thon 2012. A conservative estimate of service hours recorded by Penn State Altoona students during the 2011-12 academic year exceeded 3,400.
As a supplement to their classroom instruction, students enrolled in the Convergent Media Seminar class at Penn State Altoona advanced the communication program’s mission to work with the local community by creating three one-minute promotional videos for the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society. As their final project for the class, seniors Megan Riner, Samantha Fulare, and Adrian Shawley produced media content for the Humane Society’s Web site that showcases the facility, solicits support, and focuses on placement of the sheltered animals. The communications program has produced content for a variety of local non-profit organizations in the past, including the United Way of Blair County, Altoona Public Library, Hollidaysburg Area YMCA, and Operation Our Town.
“Service is a vital part of our University’s mission,” said Chancellor Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry. “Through their involvement in a vast array of community service projects and programs, our students are impacting the quality of life for countless individuals and families throughout our region and, in fact, in other countries when you consider their participation in service projects around the world. Our students are an example to all that the selfless actions of one person can make a tremendous difference. I am proud to say that I have witnessed that difference firsthand.”
Community service remained a focus on campus at the start of the 2013 spring semester as students participated in projects celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the week of January 21-25. As they approach a new record for community service hours, Penn State Altoona students continue to distinguish themselves as humanitarians, servant leaders, engaged citizens, and caring friends of the college’s entire service area.