SECTION I : EVERYONE IS A LEADER
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams
When you hear the names: Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and John F. Kennedy – what is the common thread that unites them? They were all great leaders. There are hundreds of definitions of leadership and thousands of books written on the subject. There are many theories and debates about whether leaders are born or made. Everyone seems to have their own personal philosophy on leadership.
Most agree that leadership is a skill that can be developed through education, training, and experience. You may have gotten some leadership experience through clubs/organizations, playing on a sports team, working as a supervisor, volunteering, tutoring, or completing a group project. College is a great time to try out your leadership skills. You don’t have to hold a leadership position in order to be a leader; anyone can step up and take the lead.
Some skill sets that effective leaders use include:
Look for ways to get involved co-curricularly through the Student Activities or Involvement office on campus. There are opportunities through clubs/organizations, intramurals, peer counseling/advising, tutoring, service projects, programming, and residence life. Numerous workshops, conferences, institutes, speakers, and dialogues help students learn new leadership skills, or enhance existing skills.
On the curricular side, leadership opportunities may be found directly or indirectly in various courses; you may discover a leadership certificate or even a major or minor. You may take courses on the theoretical foundations of leadership as well as the effective practice.
Most student leaders agree that the skills they have learned will last a lifetime:
“Leadership is not only knowing the difference between right and wrong, but having the courage to stand up for what is right and for those who have been wronged.”
-- Patrick C. (student)
“My role in the classroom and in my organizations is a powerful one and it’s because of that that I have been able to mature by becoming more accountable, more compatible and more goal-oriented. I am not only a leader because I believe myself to be, but because others around me believe in me, as well. My task as a leader is to help my team believe in our ability to succeed, and believe in our common goals. I am able to do that because of the positive reinforcement I continue to receive during my time at Mason from students and faculty but also very much from staff members. I lead because I want to help as best I am able. It's my role. I embrace it.”
- Jeff B. (student)
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Almost 83% of incoming freshman report engaging in frequent or occasional volunteer work (UCLA/Higher Education Research Institute Annual Freshmen Survey, 2001); in fact, more teenagers than adults volunteer. The overall volunteer workforce represents the equivalent of over 9 million full-time employees at a value of $255 billion (Independent Sector, 1999).
Whether it is a child who needs tutoring, an elderly man who could use assistance within his home, an AIDS patient who needs meals delivered, or a woman seeking shelter from an abusive relationship, there are many people in your local community who could use a helping hand. National and international agencies like the Red Cross and Peace Corps provide assistance to developing countries and relief efforts for disasters such as the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck southern Asia and eastern Africa in 2004.
Volunteering is the act of providing a service to help others without the expectation of monetary compensation or personal recognition. It can be direct service to others, advocacy, or indirect service (fundraising).
It’s a great way for you to connect to the broader community while gaining valuable experience in a wide variety of settings. On a societal level you can help those in need and create a more cohesive community. On an individual level you gain personal satisfaction, the chance to develop personal and professional skills, and a sense of belonging to the greater community.
There are a number of ways for you to volunteer through established programs such as the university like a Service Learning Office, an Alternative Spring Break program or clubs and organizations such as Alpha Phi Omega or Best Buddies. You can also find opportunities in the local community through religious, health, educational, environmental, cultural, or recreational agencies.
Many college students are involved in tutoring/mentoring children and adolescents, saving the environment, building houses, working with the elderly, or raising awareness/funds for health issues such as HIV/AIDS. The list is endless; for you, it’s important to choose something that you’ll enjoy.
Keep these tips in mind when you’re volunteering:
Here’s what some students had to say about their experience in doing volunteer or service work:
“It really keeps me grounded. I live a blessed life, one where I have never had to go hungry, always had a roof over my head, and even get to attend a University. Often times volunteering puts me in situations with people who have not had many of these benefits. Sometimes these people are just living day to day, not sure what the morning will bring when they go to sleep at night. When I am interacting with these people, it reminds me just how fortunate I have been, how small many of my problems really are in the grand scheme of things.” – Dale W. (student)
“For me, volunteering has been the fuel to my education. For as many books as I have read or classrooms I attend, nothing has given me more guidance and motivation as an individual. I believe that there is a process to becoming an active citizen, and volunteering is the number one way to converse and shake hands with people from all backgrounds. It is an indescribable feeling when something has been accomplished by the hands of volunteers.” – Erica B. (student)
“I enjoy doing things for other people (regardless of recognition or appreciation). It gives me something to do and I don't feel like I've wasted my time. It also allows me to meet interesting people that I might not have met otherwise. There's some personal benefit to some of the things I do such as projects to help the environment or helping to raise money for a medical cause (a family member might have been afflicted with that particular disease), but that's more of an afterthought than the reason.” – Elizabeth T. (student)
“Making myself available to others has given me a sense of satisfaction in that it allows me to feel as if I am repaying all those that have helped me throughout the course of my life by offering the same wisdom, guidance, and all around general concern for the welfare of others.” – Million F. (student)
As you can see, each of these students feels strongly and has a unique perspective on the benefits of volunteering. Take the first step to explore opportunities on your campus and in the community that you find interesting. Whether you commit a sizeable amount of time or just a few hours per month, you’ll be amazed at the difference you can make in both your life and the life of someone else!
Tracey E. Reeves, Ph.D.
Associate Director of Leadership Education and Development
In consultation with:
Heather Hare, M.A.
Associate Director, Center for Leadership
and Community Engagement
Center for Service and Leadership helps students engage in learning activities that address human and community needs. Service learning is the process of integrating community service and critical thinking exercises into the curriculum to enhance and enrich student learning and development. Academic credit is offered to students in classes where faculty includes a service-learning component. Volunteer opportunities, service-learning forms, and handbooks are available at http://www.gmu.edu/student/csl/
Sexual Assault Services (SAS) provides a confidential and comprehensive
response to all reports of sexual assault and the related issues of stalking
and dating/domestic violence. SAS also offers information, psychological,
medical, legal and judicial advocacy, and assistance with academic intervention.
SAS provides educational programs to campus organizations and classes
and offers a volunteer component to students with its Peer Support Program. http://www.sexualassaultservices.gmu.edu/.
Student Activities strives to create a holistic learning community designed to complement academic studies and enhance the overall educational experience of students. Through involvement and participation in leadership, cultural, governance, service and social activities, students will be changed to think critically and develop skills and competencies preparing them for success in the greater global society. The Student Leadership and Community Service Awards offers awards that are designed to honor individuals, recognized student organizations, and advisors that have made outstanding contributions to their communities through their involvement, service and leadership development activities http://www.gmu.edu/student/sa/about.html.
Community and Volunteering is one of Fairfax County’s greatest assets – a strong sense of community http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/living/community/. A citizen can get involved with community or citizen association or volunteer at one of the parks, libraries, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to help contribute to the quality of life in Fairfax County.
Greater DC Cares is the Greater Washington's leading coordinator of volunteerism and corporate philanthropy. Harnessing the energy, skills, goods and talent, the greater DC Cares actively engages the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia in unique and rewarding giving experiences that strengthen community organizations and enrich Greater Washington. The web site provides a list of volunteer opportunities with nonprofit organizations throughout the area. For a list of opportunities or other information regarding opportunities for families and for youths visit http://www.dc-cares.org/
Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) volunteers make gardens grow at Carlyle House Historic Park and Meadowlark Gardens, give tours and programs, staff visitor and nature centers, assist with clerical tasks and special events, and work on trail and landscape improvements. The web site offers questions and answers about volunteer opportunities and a list of the regional parks. http://www.nvrpa.org/volunteers.html
Virginia AmeriCorps offers a variety of programs of service activities throughout the commonwealth including such examples as Community Housing Partners Corporation, The Good Shepherd Alliance, Inc., Habitat for Humanity, Virginia Crime Prevention Association, and Our Health, Inc. http://www.vaservice.org/americorps/program.html
VirginiaCORPS offers a volunteer Neighborhood Watch Program. To find out more about this community-oriented program and others like it, visit http://www.virginiacorps.org/CitizenCorps/nw/nwChoose.cfm.
YMCA of Metropolitan Washington offers community services, health and fitness programs, childcare, camps, and youth and family services. Volunteer programs include tutors, literacy volunteers, childcare, teen volunteer programs, hosted workshops, and hobby leadership. http://www.ymcawashdc.org/
American Red Cross National Capital Area offers steps to becoming a volunteer. The American Red Cross has many different areas where volunteers can help. For information regarding how to get started and to find the nearest Red Cross location, visit http://www.redcrossdc.org/Volunteer/how_to_volunteer.php3.
Corporation for National and Community Service engages Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to help strengthen communities. Through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve, America has mobilized a new generation of engaged citizens. The programs help thousands of national and community nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, schools, and local agencies meet local needs in education, the environment, public safety, homeland security, and other critical areas. National and community service programs work closely with traditional volunteer organizations to broaden, deepen, and strengthen the ability of America’s volunteers to contribute not only to their communities, but also to the nation. The web site offers information about why people volunteer, benefits of volunteering, and how to get involved. http://www.cns.gov/
National Park Service http://www.nps.gov/ under the U.S. Department of the Interior has many opportunities for individuals to become involved in stewardship of these national treasures by volunteering, working, or interning in one of 380 parks. The web site offers a list of different types of positions available for volunteering. http://www.volunteer.gov/gov/
Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when Senator John F Kennedy challenged students to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. Now more than 178,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have been invited by 138 host countries to work on issue ranging from AIDS education, information technology, and environmental preservation. On the web site are their mission statement, history, books on the Peace Corps, what volunteers do, where volunteers go, and how to apply. http://www.peacecorps.gov/
Peacework offers projects for volunteers in groups of 6 to 60. Volunteer groups learn about the dynamics of global hunger and poverty by working together with local people on housing, health, the environment, and other development issues in countries around the world. http://www.peacework.org/
U. S. Department of Human Services includes the Office of Community Service (OCS) that is responsible for federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. OCS represents a modest collection of discretionary and block grant resources. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/
USA Freedom Corps is the President’s call to service. Housed at the White House, the USA Freedom Corps is working to strengthen the culture of service and help find opportunities for every American to start volunteering. The comprehensive network gives individuals service opportunities that match their interests and talents in their hometowns, across the country or around the world. A list of national service programs and volunteer service initiatives can be found at http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov/.
Volunteer America – promotes the activities of volunteers on public lands all across America. The web site includes volunteer opportunities, volunteer vacations, a free newsletter, and a volunteer kit. http://www.volunteeramerica.net/activities.htm
National Association of Student Personnel Administrators is designed for student affairs administration, policy and practice and affirms the commitment of student affairs to educating the whole student and integrating student life and learning. http://www.naspa.org/
Network for Good offers a search system that locates volunteer opportunity locally, nationally, and internationally. It also offers tips on how to volunteer wisely, and insight into why people volunteer. http://www.networkforgood.org/volunteer/