Beyond Volunteerism – Community Service Ideas For College Students

As a college student who’s dedicated to making the most out of your education, the last thing that you feel like doing on summer break is pursuing more education. After a semester of doing more studying and attending less parties than you anticipated, spending May through August palling around with friends, vacationing and visiting nightspots is the reasonable thing to do. But what if you could spend the summer having fun while pursuing non-academic education. If you’re interested but you’re wondering how much summer fun you’ll have; rest assured, we’re not talking about something that requires study; we’re talking about something that could boost your resume while bringing more excitement to your summer than bar hopping or hitting the beach: performing community service.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how volunteer work could be as fun as how you spent last summer. But we’re not talking about volunteering at a food pantry; we’re talking about community service ideas that will keep you engaged and still allow you to celebrate summer. In addition to needing volunteers in the service areas like food distribution, prepared meals, health care, etc., community service organizations also need volunteers in service areas and geographic locations that aren’t commonly associated with volunteer work. To explain what we mean; below, we list two big ways that service work could make your summer far more interesting than if you didn’t perform it.

Incredible Vacation Opportunities

If you contact a well connected community service organization, you’ll find that there’s a need for service projects and service workers all over the globe, and the news gets better: instead of having to pay thousands of dollars in airfare and travel accommodations, you can get most if not all of your travel costs covered by organizations that donate to worldwide service projects. In addition, you can also start your own fundraising campaign and achieve success by contacting a list of resources provided by a service organization. Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere that’s off the beaten tourist path? By searching out service needs and projects in the country of your choice, chances are that you can take a supremely original vacation for very little money.

Incredible Career Opportunities

Without a degree, you’ll find it hard to get meaningful experience in your field; and without meaningful experience, you’ll find it hard to get a job in your field. While many students think that having a degree means that they’ll get hired after graduation, that’s simply not the case. Employers want experience, and not low-level experience. So, what’s a sophomore or junior to do? If you take advantage of the right volunteer opportunities, you can volunteer for projects that let you use your education in a pivotal role. Offering your time and talents for free means that you won’t be competing for a paid position, which means that you’ll have little competition in the first place.

Labels for Special Education Students – A Necessary Evil

The word “label” can cause many parents to cringe inwardly. They often see it as a big sign hung on the back of their child, making them conspicuously different from the rest of the population. Some parents may fear a label will stay with their child for the rest of their lives, preventing both social acceptance and employment opportunities. Others may see a label as some kind of failure in regards to their parenting skills. In fact, no parent wants his/her child to be labeled.

However, labeling may be unavoidable. Getting your child diagnosed is the single most important step in the foundation of his education. If you perform your own evaluation and red flags pop up, it’s time to take action.

Your first call should be to your child’s primary care physician. At well-child check-ups, your doctor will ask questions regarding developmental benchmarks. Benchmarks are guidelines of normal development your child should reach by a certain age. These include expressive language, receptive language, vocabulary, and fine and gross motor skills. Because language development can vary from child to child, physicians may be lax in taking appropriate action for a child who is not reaching benchmarks. As a parent, your intuition should serve you well. Call your local county Child Development Services (CDS) office and request an evaluation. Your CDS case manager will refer you to specialists more suited to diagnosing disabilities.

If your child is already attending school and you are worried about his progress, keep the lines of communication open with his teachers. Many teachers will refer students to the special education department for an evaluation. Regardless of the results of a public school evaluation, you may want to get an unbiased, independent evaluation. Tutoring centers like Sylvan use specialized testing. In this way, you have a back up should the school district decline services.

If your child does have a disability, an appropriate diagnosis is important in order for the state to recognize him as a special education student. State funds ensure support staff will be available to help your child meet the goals listed in his IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. This plan includes any therapeutic services your child may need such as speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and adaptive physical education. These services are vital to your child’s success throughout his primary and secondary education.

Sometimes the biggest hurdle is dealing with having your child “singled out” as a special education student. You fear your child will be seen as different, weird, stupid or weak. While there is no easy fix for this issue, being an advocate for your child and his education can alleviate some of those fears. At the primary level, ask the special education teacher about reverse mainstreaming. This process invites mainstream students into the self-contained/special education classrooms. Students who spend time in the specialized classrooms tend to be more accepting of differences because they are allowed to get to know special education students on a personal level. If reverse mainstreaming is promoted regularly, lasting bonds can form between students that will carry over into the mainstream classrooms and all over the school.

Finally, teach your child to advocate for himself. Understanding the cause and reason behind a label can sometimes ease anxiety about being different. Understanding how a specialized program works, even on a basic level, can go a long way in teaching your child to advocate for himself throughout the course of his education.