A new scene: community service at Wellesley
Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 11:10
When Henry Durant chartered the Wellesley Female Seminary in 1870, the concept of educating women was a novelty. But Wellesley College's motto, Non Ministrari sed Ministrare—not to be ministered unto, but to minister—transcends this novelty by asserting women's purpose outside of academia, an even more progressive notion at a time when women were typically dependent on men. This motto remains equally true and vital today, regardless of how much women have advanced since that time period.
Wellesley students fulfill this motto not only in their pursuits after graduation, but also in their participation in community service during their time at Wellesley. "There is a pretty big community service scene at Wellesley, but it's just not located at Wellesley," said Stephanie Huang '12, president of Wellesley Volunteers, a student organization dedicated to promoting and providing service opportunities to Wellesley students. "The volunteer opportunities available on-campus or a walkable distance from campus are very limited, thus most volunteers find themselves traveling off-campus to where there is a greater need," added Huang.
The opportunities outside of Wellesley are abundant, making the community service scene at Wellesley College "very diverse and vibrant," according to Melissa Hawkins, director of service and stipend programs for Wellesley College's Center for Work and Service (CWS). "Students are working at every type of organization imaginable in the fields of health, education, arts, sciences, and the environment," says Hawkins.Popular organizations that students have worked with include, but are not limited to, Girls' LEAP (a self-defense education program), the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Mission Hill Afterschool Program, Artists for Humanity and REACH.
Wellesley Volunteers is involved in its own yearly projects in the community. According to Huang, Wellesley Volunteers is currently working with Cambridge Community Center, the Pine Street Inn, the Wish Project, Amherst Survival Center and Natick Organic Farm. However, the group's interests aren't limited to off-campus projects. "Wellesley Volunteers has been striving to bring more volunteering opportunities to the Wellesley College campus," said Huang. "In the past, we have had an on-campus Knitting Night in collaboration with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life where we knitted hats for babies, afghans and for victims of the Chilean earthquake. We also had a hair donation event. Hairstylists from Ardan volunteered their time and services while members of the Wellesley Community donated thirty locks of hair to the Beautiful Lengths campaign by Pantene."So how can students get involved? According to Huang, "You need a desire to help, whether that be working with children, the elderly, an organic farm…it all counts!" In addition to working with Wellesley Volunteers and other student organizations, students can find volunteer opportunities through sites such as Google, idealist.org and bostoncares.com. "To get involved with your own service project," advised Huang, "the CWS can fund your project as well as help you get transportation to your work site." Likewise, Hawkins encourages interested students to get involved by researching opportunities in the Boston area through the CWS website and MyCWS, or by meeting with her to discuss opportunities.
The service scene at Wellesley "continues to expand in many exciting ways," Hawkins said. "We hope that students will visit the CWS to learn more about these exciting opportunities." One recent expansion this year has been a new partnership with the Framingham 21st Century Community Learning Centers, an afterschool program that helps level the playing field for low income and minority youth who may be struggling to keep pace with peers who have more resources.
For those who aren't sure about what kind of commitment they want to make, The Day to Make a Difference (DTMAD) provides a taste of a variety of experiences. Originally a service project for first-year orientation, DTMAD became a joint effort between the CWS and the Alumnae Association. Every September, students, alums, faculty and staff unite to participate in a variety of service projects. According to Hawkins, who organizes the project, 203 members of the college community participated this fall.
Wellesley's motto and history cannot fully answer the question "Why volunteer?" Wellesley students must look within. "Volunteering is personally rewarding for me because I like helping others," said Huang. However, "Everyone has their own reasons. At Wellesley, we have so much potential to give back to our surrounding community. We volunteer because we're needed. You should too." Hawkins also stressed the value of volunteerism for the student. "Students get involved to give back to the community, to make a difference in a cause they care about, to explore a career field, to put into practice the knowledge they gained in the classroom, and to gain new skills." With such skills students can continue to "serve rather than be served" well after their time at Wellesley.
Contact Melissa Hawkins to be added to the CWS Newsletter for work and volunteer opportunities.
To get involved with Wellesley Volunteers, you can add yourself to the Wellesley Volunteers conference (Wellesley Conferences > Student Forums > Student Organizations > WC Volunteers).