Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier features editor
Kelsey Brady, Campus Carrier asst. features editor
Volunteering through BCVS:
Berry College Volunteer Services (BCVS) is a student-led office that helps connect the campus to Floyd County by facilitating volunteer opportunities between the two entities. Student supervisor Carlye McKillip said that Volunteer Services can help students become more involved outside of main campus since they are able to volunteer at places that can be located just five minutes away from campus.
“Our goal is that we try to provide one-time opportunities or ongoing opportunities,” McKillip said. “So, whether they just want to do it once or if it is something they are interested in doing throughout an entire semester.”
Campus Coordinator Grettie Reifenberger said that by assigning people to a place they are interested in, it is more likely to result in excitement. She said this can allow for them to foster better relationships with their coworkers since they are more likely to enjoy their job.
Reifenberger said that BCVS allows students the chance to do volunteer activities that they may not do on a regular basis. For this reason, students are able to learn more about life off-campus and how their service can impact themselves and the volunteer organization.
With about 100 community partners, BCVS helps connect campus clubs, organizations and even individuals find the best fit in regard to their interests and needs. If someone is interested in an organization that in not currently partnered with, McKillip said that BCVS is open to reaching out and building their network.
Anyone interested in volunteering can also sign up for Volunteer Services’ two annual service events: Make A Difference Day and MLK Day of Service. According to Reifenberger, Make A Difference Day focuses on neighbors helping neighbors within the community while MLK Day of Service celebrates the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Our days of service are not just for clubs,” Reifenberger said. “You can sign up with your friends, you can just come up with a fun name and serve with your friends.”
If interested in volunteering, some of the common community partners include Habitat for Humanity Restore, Action Ministries, Restoration Lindale and Salvation Army. The BCVS office is located in Krannert and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We are always trying to get our numbers up and promote more events,” McKillip said. “People can always use more volunteers and more help throughout the community.”
Other campus volunteer opportunities:
Michael Zirkel, coordinator for the Bonner Scholars Program, has extensive experience with community partners in Rome. There are a large number of locations and opportunities available for all students, and in any major.
“It’s between 35 and 40 community partners that we work with regularly, and it’s a wide range of everything from working with the elderly to working with youth empowerment,” Zirkel said.
A more recent community partner that is involved in youth empowerment is the North Broad Youth Center. According to Zirkel, the center began about four or five years ago.
According to North Broad Youth Center’s website, it is an after-school program that works with children ages four to 14 years old in their Rising Stars program. The program helps enhance children’s knowledge in all areas of academics.
“One that I’ve seen start from the ground up since I’ve been here is North Broad Youth Center,” Zirkel said. “They have the support there and the people power to really develop the children that go there and also the Berry and Bonner students who work there to become really great leaders.”
Other unique opportunities include the E.C.O. Center, the Arrowhead Environmental Education Center and the Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI). These sites are great sites for environmental science majors, and each offers their own experiences.
According to Zirkel, End Slavery Georgia has been a great community partner and provides students with a different volunteer experience.
“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Zirkel said. “It works with a national organization that is working to end human trafficking. Not only does it do that outreach, but it has a safehouse that has women who have previously been trafficked and helping them get back into society and helping them rebuild their life after that traumatic experience. It’s been a really eye opening experience.”
According to Zirkel, the E.C.O Center is involved in educational outreach and also gives volunteers a chance to work hands-on with different animal species.
Zirkel also said that the Arrowhead Center provides educational outreach to public schools in the area and educates them about native species in Floyd County.
According to Zirkel, CRBI is incredibly hands-on, and some volunteers can even kayak up and down rivers collecting and testing water samples.
Zirkel advises students looking to volunteer to look for other students involved at the site and join them on a visit. He also recommends giving the location more than one day.
“Don’t be afraid,” Zirkel said. “It might be a little intimidating, but get through your first day. Give it a few tries. Don’t let the first time totally define the experience for you.”
When it comes to choosing a volunteer site, Zirkel suggests looking for a community partner that interests students or may be a potential career.
“Try and make it something that aligns with what you might want to do in life or what your general interests are,” Zirkel said. “Sometimes it’s more important to figure out what you don’t want to do, but then you can find out that ‘maybe I want to try different opportunities.’”
“See what community opportunities we have to apply what you’re learning in the classroom in the community,” Zirkel said. “Get those really intentional partnerships to figure out what you want to do before you’re a senior and haven’t been able to get your hands dirty.”
Overall, Zirkel is thankful for the Rome-Floyd community and the community partners who work with Berry students.
“We couldn’t do what we do here in the office if our community partners were not so on board with us and our students,” Zirkel said. “They really buy into Berry, and they really buy into the work we are trying to do.”
For students looking to delve further in their involvement, Academic Community Engagement (ACE) courses may be the answer. ACE students work with a community partner for a semester and through their course work and assignments can obtain a deeper knowledge and appreciation for the community.
“That reaches students in a different way,” Zirkel said. “They can do community engaged work with some of our community partners while doing some really good intentional work with different projects and different assignments.”