By Mandy Rofe, Penn State Parent Council Member
Our students learn the nuts and bolts of their future careers through rigorous studies and a world class education at Penn State. As we all know, though, being older and wiser (words we used to hear from our parents), there is also so much for them to learn outside of the classroom that will help them to be the best that they can be.
There are many organizations for students to become involved in at Penn State through which they make a difference in the community. There are a handful of clubs on campus that describe themselves as service and/or philanthropic. I am most familiar with the latter because my Junior daughter is on the Executive Board of ServeState: Students for Philanthropy.
In their own words, “ServeState is a club at Penn State with a goal to fill the various needs of the State College community through service and philanthropy. We pride ourselves for our reputation of providing service without limits, and we maintain this reputation through our closely knit membership base that works tirelessly to carry out our mission. We welcome anyone and everyone looking to serve their community and create a family along the way. Friendship fostered through service is incredibly special, and we can’t wait to foster that friendship with you!”
This student organization is comprised of approximately 100 students, which is large enough to make a difference but small enough to create friendships that will last a lifetime. As a parent of a member, I am thankful for the friendships that have been forged via a common good purpose. Active students in ServeState are required to commit to 25 hours of volunteer time during the year. All mentees, which are new members, are required to commit to 20 hours of service.
A large part of their fundraising efforts support THON, as do many approved clubs, but there are many other ways ServeState gives back to the community. For example, the students often visit The Oaks at Pleasant Gap, an Assisted Living facility. I will never forget my daughter’s call after her first visit, she was so happy that the residents were so happy to see them. During their visits, they do a jewelry class, help in the vegetable garden, or just simply spend some time visiting. How wonderful for our students and the residents! Our students are probably missing us, and the residents are missing their loved ones, so it is a perfect fit. Human interaction, empathy, kindness – this cannot be learned via a textbook.
Another example of community involvement is the Arboretum Cleanup. If you have been to the Arboretum before, you don’t need me to tell you how beautiful it is! Behind the scenes, there are groups like ServeState that volunteer their time to restore the forest at the Arboretum by removing invasive weeds, clearing pathways of debris, picking up litter, and removing old fences. There is no fanfare for our students doing this, they know amongst themselves what they have done to make the experience better for others.
There are also numerous other service events that this club is involved in, whether it be helping at the local church kitchen or sticking post-it notes around campus with positive thoughts to brighten another students’ day. This is a group of our Penn State students just doing the right thing. I know these memories will stay with my daughter forever. One day, when they graduate, have their own careers and the busy part of life takes over, I am confident that these students will make the time to give back to others. Whether they are fortunate enough to give a monetary gift like the $30 million that Donald P. Bellisario gave last year to the College of Communications (we can only hope) or volunteer their time at the local soup kitchen, the seed has been planted, and they will do it.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill
If you think that your student may be interested in ServeState, or a similar service organization, encourage them to do some research on how they can get involved. Studies and good grades are obviously important, but knowing our students take the time to help others, well that is priceless!
You can see all of the recognized student organizations at Penn State University Park at https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/involvement-student-life/student-organizations/join-student-organization