The Daily Gamecock

Service Opportunity Fair offers students chance to give back

Community Service Programs, Carolina Service Council sponsor event

Twenty-five Columbia nonprofits and five USC student service organizations were represented during Tuesday’s Spring 2011 Service Opportunity Fair, which was sponsored by Community Service Programs and the Carolina Service Council.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second floor of the Russell House, students were able to explore different service interests from animal rights and the environment to after-school tutoring programs and senior centers.    

Community Service Program Advisor Michelle Peer is more optimistic about the level of volunteerism at USC this year. This January, CSP and the Service Council hosted the largest Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day in recent years, sending 515 students and faculty members to work at 27 different sites.

Registration for the next service Saturday on Feb. 12 has already reached capacity.

According to Peer, students are demonstrating a positive energy and interest in the Carolina community.

“The numbers this year have been consistent, if not increased,” Peer said. “Students are looking for tangible ways to make a difference, and they see community service as a great way to live out their personal values and make concrete changes.

“They also get to figure out what their own special interests are and how to apply them to helping others. It can serve as a stepping stone to an internship or a part-time job, so it goes hand in hand with preparing students for the work force.”

Members of the Carolina Service Council were present at the fair to promote volunteering as both a method of giving back to the university community and as an important learning experience in higher education.

“[Volunteering] shows you that not everything is as great as it seems on campus,” third-year biology student and Service Council officer Laura Simpson said. “There are people in the community who have much less than we do and who don’t even get to go to school. It definitely gives you a new perspective as a college student and makes you appreciate why you’re here in the first place.”

Representatives from Columbia area nonprofit organizations spent the afternoon recruiting volunteers and attesting to the generous support they have received from both students and faculty at USC. Kathye Holder, a volunteer coordinator at the Nurturing Center, a family-focused treatment center for child abuse and neglect, is grateful for the 20-year partnership the organization has formed with the university.

“I’ve had several volunteers who started as freshmen and continue to work with us after they graduate,” Holder said. “We’ve had a really good response from the community here, from helping students in the classroom to supporting our adopt-a-family program at Christmas to just helping clean the building.

The students, staff, organizations and offices aren’t just kind and giving; they really want to make a difference.”

In addition to promoting local service opportunities, CSP is sponsoring a series of alternative Spring Break trips to Tennessee, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. Spots for the Service Council’s trip to the Dominican Republic have already been filled, and registration for an alternative Spring Break to Detroit opens on Feb. 11 at 7:30 a.m. outside room 229 in the Russell House. Registration is also open for a free service leadership workshop on Saturday, Feb. 19. For more information about volunteer opportunities at USC, visit