50 plus volunteer projects planned for fall

With over 50 volunteer projects planned thus far for the fall semester, Robert Morris University’s Office of Student Civic Engagement (OSCE) is looking forward to another packed semester of service.

Beginning her fifth year as the Director of Student Civic Engagement, Donna Anderson expects to fill the majority of spots for each project and urges all students to get involved.

“We expect to essentially fill [each project]. The fall tends to be an extremely busy time. Now some of that is because the freshmen have to do their three hours of service, but I think some of it is students are coming back to campus, and they’re excited and want to get involved with things,” she stated.

“Community service is a great way to meet people, a great way to make friends, a great way to develop your leadership skills, and to have things you can put on your resume.”

Community service opportunities range from ongoing service through organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters to one-day projects that take place on campus.

“We’re going to be very conscientious about pushing the on-campus events for freshmen because we know that transportation is an issue for them,” explained Volunteer Service Coordinator Jessica Mann, who was just hired on June 1 and is the first to hold this new position. “[Those projects] on campus where students can take a small chunk of their day to serve that wouldn’t necessarily throw their schedule off and to help freshmen get used to service without it being this big daunting commitment.”

The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which is a White House initiative, is one of the office’s newest projects this semester that will kickoff in September. The project involves a partnership with the B-MEN, Carpe Mundum, Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO), Hillel, Hispanic Student Association and The Pittsburgh Promise, and aims to engage RMU students from diverse religious backgrounds and non-religious backgrounds in community service in the Coraopolis area that focuses on hunger and food insecurity.

Anderson is co-leading the initiative with Lisa Nuss, associate director of the center for global engagement, along with other staff members that include Director of Multicultural Affairs Antonio Quarterman, Academic/Personal Counselor and board member Randon Willard, and Father Sam Jampetro, who is a member of RMU’s Campus Ministry Association and the Executive Director of Coraopolis Community Development Foundation – RMU’s community partner for the project.

In addition to these projects, the OSCE has sponsored alternative breaks in the fall and spring for the past four years.

This year’s fall break involves an overnight stay in a local church the weekend before Thanksgiving and focuses on hunger and homelessness in Pittsburgh.

The spring offers two alternative break trips that take place during the week of spring break. Students can either travel to Washington, D.C. to work with the Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP), focusing on hunger and homeless issues in the D.C. area, or students can travel to Kincaid, West Virginia with the Southern Appalachian Labor School, focusing on housing and rural poverty issues.

Each trip is budgeted to allow 12 students to attend along with one male and one female staff member.

“We encourage students to take ownership of these trips. It’s really student driven in terms of the project and organizing themselves pre and post trip,” Mann explained. “We have them do reflections, but we really rely on our student leaders to keep that ball rolling.”

Students looking to gain even more out of their volunteer work at RMU may want to consider becoming apart of the Peer Leader Program or the Non-Profit Alliance Program, formerly known as American Humanics.

The Peer Leader Program allows students to hone their leadership skills by monitoring regular service sites, which involves recruiting new students and dealing with all the logistics. The Non-Profit Alliance Program is a certification program with various requirements that prepares students for a career in the non-profit sector.

Located at 277 Nicholson Center near the student mailboxes, the OSCE is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Anderson and Mann welcome anyone to drop-in.

Be sure to stop by the Jefferson TV Lounge on Tuesday, Aug. 30 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. for an information session directed by Anderson and Mann for further details about all of the projects being offered.