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UWyo Magazine
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

UWyo Magazine

January 2016 | Vol. 17, No. 2

The Value of Volunteering

Adewale Sekoni and Troy Axthelm apply primer to a community member’s front porch during the 2015 Big Event—an event that drew more than 700 volunteers.

The Value of Volunteering

Many UW students make volunteering a way of life—a value they carry with them across the state and around the world.

By Micaela Myers

Every year, about 6,000 University of Wyoming students engage in more than 185,000 volunteer hours—and that’s just the hours the university can track.

“Students clearly want to give back to their state and community,” says Eric Webb, executive director of Residence Life and Dining Services and the Wyoming Union. “Volunteering is a standard way of life for many of our students.”

Students give through UW-sponsored annual service days, Alternative Breaks service-learning trips, class projects, fraternities and sororities, recognized student organizations, residence life, the Wyoming Conservation Corps and work with local nonprofits and faith-based groups.

“I was raised to invest all my time and effort into things that I love, and serving others is definitely something I enjoy doing,” says Ethan Atwood, a senior microbiology major from Casper, Wyo.

Service, Leadership & Community Engagement

“This generation is incredibly motivated and passionate about people, giving back and making a difference,” say Erin Olsen, Wyoming Union assistant director for the Service, Leadership and Community Engagement (SLCE) office.

UW sponsors several annual days of service, including 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, Make A Difference Day—the Spooky Sprint canned food drive, Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service and Earth Day. But October’s Big Event has truly become the big event of service days.

Started in 2013, the Big Event now draws more than 700 student volunteers. In 2015, the students completed projects at 150 service sites, which included nonprofits, churches and individual community members’ homes.

The First Baptist Church in Laramie has benefited from the Big Event for the past two years. In 2014, the students performed maintenance on the church’s yard and day-care play area. This year, additional volunteers meant that the students also helped move furniture, paint and more.

“The students were magnificent and worked like professionals,” says Elnora Frye, chairperson for the church’s board. “I had such a great time with these kids. I want to have some church members share this experience with them next year, as it is a good program for which we are so thankful.”

The nonprofit Home On the Range Animal Haven has called on the students each year since the Big Event started. This year, the volunteers cleaned out a flooded barn, took down a temporary enclosure and put up fencing.

“The students were very positive about helping, very friendly and worked diligently,” says Deb Roberts, executive director of the sanctuary. “I think the Big Event is a remarkable idea. It’s a really great connection to the community. The help to Home On the Range is invaluable.”

John Nutter, who retired from UW and has lived in Laramie for 32 years, just needed help moving a piano a short distance, but the student volunteers ended up doing much more. “They raked leaves, they washed 27 windows both inside and out, and then we had them load up an old dog house into my vehicle,” he says. “They even volunteered to come back in the spring and wash windows.

“I think it’s a tremendous effort on the part of the university—and SLCE in particular—to be able to build the relationship between the university and the community members.”

The students say they get just as much out of it as the community does. “Service is absolutely a two-way street,” says Maddy Graham, a senior from Casper, Wyo., studying communication disorders and business management. Graham’s volunteer work includes the Big Event, Spooky Sprint and Alternative Breaks. “People expect to give, but they have no idea how much they can truly gain from the experience. My opportunities have allowed me to grow as an individual. I’ve learned so much about myself, my community and even the world.”


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UWyo Magazine
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

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