Giving Back to the Community

Maris Lambie, Reporter

The Volunteer and Service-Learning Center at SUNY Buffalo State hosted their annual Volunteer Fair for faculty and students last Thursday in Campbell Student Union.

The fair is normally hosted in the quad outside the union, but because of the weather, it was held in the Social Hall.

Over 30 organizations, some local and some nationwide, attended the fair and talked to students about their organization’s cause. They also listed ways students could get involved.

There were several student projects going on during the fair such as building birdhouses, making blankets for the homeless, and creating birthday cards.

Despite the location change, the fair still attracted a large crowd of students.

“The turn out has been awesome,” said Laura Hill Rao, VSLC Coordinator.

Rao has been with Buffalo State’s Volunteer Center for 11 years and has taken an active part in organizing the fair for the past nine years.

“We opened in 2004 as a brand new office,” Rao said. “We were just trying to help organizations meet with students face to face. It’s a better way to connect than doing everything online.”

Assistant Coordinator of the VSLC Aurora Schul agreed.

“Students were asking constantly how to get involved,” she said. “This way the students can meet up with someone and talk.”

“It’s a great way to explore areas of interest,” Rao said. “You can have the opportunity to work with something you are very passionate about. In a few hours you can get experience, explore issues, career opportunities and demonstrate skills.”

Others also expressed positive opinions about the program.

“It can help you land a job and get involved with the community,” said Buffalo State graduate Ben Bissell.

Bissell graduated in 2011 and has been involved with the Westminster Economic Development Initiative on the West Side for the past two and a half years. He is currently the student executive director of WEDI’s after school program for refugee kids.

Bissell has brought WEDI to each volunteer fair since he began working there. He described himself as “very passionate about students volunteering.” Bissell was heavily involved with community service as a Buffalo State student and claimed some of his best memories and most “valuable experiences” were helping out with community service day and alternative break, and he was the president of his own organization.

“There’s lots of people doing stuff,” Bissell said about this year’s fair. “I’d like to see more students doing projects and talking to organizations. These groups rely on long term service.”

Dwayne Remolado, a senior and member of the Alternative Break committee, said that volunteering in the community is a great resume builder and that more students should get involved.

“You see a lot of negativity in the world,” Remolado said. “If people see what good they can do for the community, they might be able to influence others.”

Molly Diamong, member of the alternative break crew, agreed that students should look into volunteering.

“You develop a sense of community,” Diamong said. “It can drastically change your outlook, and hopefully causes internal changes as well.”

Students can get more information by stopping by the VSLC office located in room 306 in Cleveland Hall.

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