By: Renata Salazar
As a college student, volunteering is essential when seeking to become involved in your community and craft better relationships. With hundreds of volunteering options and resources, it can be overwhelming to take initiative and find the best option for you. ACCENT spoke to Austin Community College’s Service-Learning Program Coordinator Sabryna Groves, to get a better understanding of the steps students should take to find volunteer opportunities and what it means to become an active community member. ACC student, Olivia Cruz,also gives us insight on what she gained from her experience volunteering through ACC.
As COVID continues, Groves gives us her thoughts on how the pandemic has affected community involvement.
“I have seen a lot of volunteer organizations are pivoting to work virtual opportunities and safe socially distant options into their agenda. Virtual volunteering is great but I think we will still see a demand for in-person volunteering.”
Groves believes that our social climate has played a part in the increased demand of students in search of volunteer opportunities. Movements such as Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate have encouraged students to get involved within the community.
“There is a lot of motivation for people to become involved in their community I think now more than ever, and there is a serious demand for us as ACC faculty to make opportunities as visible and accessible to students,” Groves said.
Before the pandemic, Cruz volunteered through Student Life by participating the monthly food distributions that are partners with Central Texas Food Bank.
“I very much enjoyed volunteering for student life at ACC. I wish I had the opportunity to do it again. I felt like I really had a place and all the people around me had the same intentions to help out,” Cruz said.
Since COVID, Cruz feels that there has been a tremendous decline of volunteer work. Due to safety protocols, gathering in groups and social interaction is not as common as it was before. Cruz shared that she feels that ACC should bring more awareness to virtual volunteering opportunities for students. .
Groves gives us her top three resources for volunteering through ACC. First would be for students to start at Student Life and look for volunteer work there. Next would be Riverbat Reach, a website that includes 30 different community partnersj that the college has. Through Riverbat Reach, students can join the volunteer program and find work suitable to their needs.. As the final resource, Groves recommends givepulse, a website that provides multiple opportunities. Here students can create a free account with their ACC email and find up-to-date information on volunteering options.
Groves is currently working with ACC students in the visual communications area of study to learn how to make volunteering opportunities more accessible to students like Cruz in the future. Students can fill out this survey and participate in helping ACC encourage and present more opportunities to students to give back.
“When you’re working with people within your community and you’re having conversations about social issues, and working together to make a change it’s a very fulfilling feeling,” says Groves. “It gives you a reason to care about Austin and like being able to give back to the community.”