Have you heard of service-learning, student volunteerism and work study but do not know the difference? Read on.
Student Volunteer Organizations and Clubs
Most campuses offer opportunities for students to join clubs that match their interests, and some of these clubs provide volunteer hours to the community. In fact, some student groups require their members to participate in a specified number of service hours each year. Examples of student clubs that offer volunteer services include fraternities and sororities, service-related clubs (e.g., Circle K), pre-professional interest groups (e.g., Virginia Academy of Student Pharmacists), and student chapters of national service organization (e.g., Campus Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, Engineers without Borders). Some benefits of recruiting volunteers from a Student Volunteer Organization include (1) student clubs can host fund raising events, (2) student clubs can provide a targeted short- or long-term service across one or more academic years, (3) student clubs rally a large number of volunteers for special projects, sometimes on a short-notice basis. The challenges of working with student clubs may include: (1) communication challenges due to frequent changes in student leadership, and (2) possible inconsistent participation by students due to academic class demands.
Service-learning courses integrate community service with an academic for-credit course. Students in a service-learning course complete required community service activities that relate to what they are learning in the classroom. For example, students in a religious studies class assist in urban community gardens while studying how various religions view the man-nature interaction. Service-learning classes typically enroll between 10 and 30 students, place students at one or more community site, and require students to complete a specified number of service hours before the end of the semester. The benefits of partnering with student volunteers from a service-learning course include (1) community organizations often develop long-term relationships with the university faculty member who teaches the class, thereby enabling a steady supply of student volunteers, (2) in their classrooms, students are learning about the social issue addressed by the community organization, and (3) the student volunteers are typically dependable because the service is connected to their academic studies. Potential challenges include: (1) long-term planning with the course instructor (i.e., 3 to 6 months before the volunteers arrive) is often necessary to insure that the service activities completed by the students meet the organization's needs and match the course content, and (2) students are typically involved in the service-learning course for only a single 3-month semester, so a new group of students must be oriented every few months.
While not specifically a student volunteer program, the Federal Work-Study program is worth mentioning here. Federal Work-Study is a government subsidized and needs-based employment program for students with financial need that allows them to earn wages in special student employment positions, typically up to 20 hours per week. Students who qualify to receive federal work-study funding are placed in part-time jobs for an entire academic year, typically for either 10 or 20 hours per week. Many universities approve a list of off-campus, community-based work study positions that enable qualified students to work within local community organizations. Because the federal government pays a portion of the student's hourly wage, the community organizations realizes a significant cost savings when it employs a work-study student. The potential advantages of employing a work-study student include: (1) the student typically remains on the job for at least one academic year and can return to the same position for multiple years, (2) community organizations can typically interview more than one work-study student applicant and select the student who best fits the needs of the organization. Potential challenges of employing a work-study student include: (1) organizations must be flexible in scheduling the student's work hours around his/her class schedule, (2) organizations must pay a portion of the student's wages, (3) organizations must hire only those students who qualify for the work-study award and must be approved by the university as a community work-study site, and (3) typically work-study hiring occurs only once a year in August-September.