For Shields, a junior majoring in family and community services at ECU, volunteering is as much a part of her college experience as studying for exams, and cheering on the football team. Like many students, she first learned of the VSLC through a service-learning course. And like many more, she remained associated with the center even after receiving her grade. She volunteered as a tutor in the ECU Reads program, helping area elementary school students with reading and writing. Last spring she participated in a pilot letter-writing program called Pen Friends, which pairs ECU students with students at nearby Wahl-Coates Elementary School. This fall, she’s running it.
One of the VSLC highlights from this past year, was coordinating ECU's contribution to Million Meals Week.
“I became a peer counselor this year here at the volunteer center and they decided that they would give me Pen Friends to work with exclusively. So I became the coordinator of the Pen Friends program,” she said.
As coordinator, Shields is responsible for overseeing a program that boasts 103 elementary students from five classes (up from three last semester), along with 95 ECU students, a few VSLC staff members, and even a couple of faculty members. Over the course of a week, roughly 200 letters are exchanged.
“I make sure that everyone gets their letter,” she said.
The Pen Friends program is a success partly because it does so many things well. It connects ECU students to the community, it helps the Wahl-Coates students with reading and writing in advance of the state-mandated fourth-grade proficiency tests, it dovetails with the ECU Reads tutoring program by helping teachers identify students who may need extra help, it attracts ECU students from across all majors, and perhaps most importantly, it introduces students to the VSLC.
“One of the things we are trying to do [here at the center] is reach out to more students, because for every student who knows about us, there is another one who doesn’t. They don’t know where we are located, and don’t know about our services,” said Shields.
One of the VSLC's annual events is Pirate Treasures, which collects household goods from students to give to the less fortunate.
The VSLC offers many services to students, but to fully realize them, it is important for students to register with the center. By registering, students become enrolled in the university’s liability insurance policy, which covers them if they are injured in an accident while serving. The center also keeps track of registered students’ volunteer service for their entire ECU career and can provide a verification letter to help students apply for scholarship, graduate school applications, internships, or even that first job.
“Employers are looking for well rounded people. They want people who have done service. In fact, a lot of employers like Target and Starbucks actually give time off to their employees to do service. So they want people who care about their community, their environment, and themselves. We like to think of service along this line: Volunteering will help you get that great internship, and that great internship will help get you that great job,” said Moore.
Learn more about the