For the first time, NIU and 10 other universities in Illinois will be part of the national Students in Service program, which matches students with local not-for-profit groups in need of volunteers.
NIU will send nine undergraduate and graduate students into the part-time volunteer workforce to do such things as work in food pantries, soup kitchens and preschool classes. For their 300 hours of service, they will receive the satisfaction of helping people and educational rewards worth $1,132 each.
“I am so excited for Northern Illinois University to be a part of this program,” said Julia Spears, NIU’s coordinator of Engaged Learning Initiatives. “This will be a great learning initiative for students and such a positive program for the community. We are always looking for ways to be responsive to the community’s needs.”
That sentiment is being echoed throughout the state, said Kathy Engelken, executive director of Illinois Campus Compact. In total, 100 student volunteers in the state will help agencies that do not have the budgets to hire paid staff members.
NIU students will complete 2,700 hours of community service. Statewide, students will volunteer for 30,000 hours.
The money to pay the NIU students their educational awards will come from a $10,188 grant supplied to university by the federal AmeriCorps program.
NIU students have not begun their volunteer service yet; the university is in the early stages of looking for them and placing them with agencies. The first step is for interested students to go to the Student Involvement & Leadership Development volunteerism website and complete applications.
Students then should plan to attend one of two informational meetings Wednesday, Oct. 20, and Thursday, Oct. 21, to discuss the volunteering options. The meetings are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. in Room 100 of the Campus Life Building.
“The volunteer opportunities are flexible,” Spears said. “Students have one calendar year to complete their service. If they want to split them up between agencies, they can. If they want perform some hours for agencies in their hometowns when they are home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, they can do that as well.”
Students can also use their service to satisfy their academic program’s internship or clinical learning requirements.
If students know they want to volunteer but don’t know where, the Student Involvement & Leadership Development office is a good place to look, said Becky Harlow, the office’s assistant director.
“We work with a long list of agencies that are always looking for volunteers for direct service positions,” she said. “All these positions will be for direct-service positions.”
Eligibility requirements state that applicants should be at least 17 years old, United States citizens and enrolled in at least six academic credit hours at NIU.
by Gerard Dziuba