These past few months, there has been a fixation on voting as the prime mode of civic engagement, but voting isn’t the only activity that generates our civic pathway. Voting is considered the most important form of participation, but getting involved directly through volunteering is far more beneficial and leads to more change than simply pressing a button inside of a curtained booth. With thousands of organizations on and surrounding Drexel’s campus, students should prioritize this mode of engagement.
When I tell Philadelphia locals that I go to Drexel, they always roll their eyes and assert that Drexel students live in a bubble and are afraid to venture out from the safety of the campus into the rest of Philadelphia. In the past, when I would get this response, I’d immediately get defensive about it and argue that my peers and I were in fact sensitive to the larger community beyond the confines of the campus.
Of recent, it has dawned on me that many students are in fact trapped in a bubble. In this bustling city of over 1.5 million people, most students at our school do in fact stay confined to the 77 acres of campus.
Drexel encourages students to become civically engaged and forces freshmen to take a dreaded Civic 101 class. I took that class last quarter and adored it, but heard nothing but complaints about it. “Being forced to volunteer ruins the whole point,” I’d hear spiteful classmates endlessly grumble.
But why do we have to be “forced” to volunteer to begin with? We shouldn’t have to set aside a course to remind us to do something we should already be doing.
Living in the city, we are surrounded by endless opportunities and it is time we get involved with the many civic engagement programs that operate in the city. Food drives, city clean-ups, gardening, planting trees – the list goes on and on, almost as long as my peers’ complaints about volunteering.
Though Drexel represents a wealthy population, we share our city with many people who are less fortunate than we are. If you want to be a true citizen of Philadelphia, break away from the campus and get to know your neighbors.
Everyone, even the busiest students with 20 credits and a job can make time to volunteer. It is simple to remove something nominal from your schedule to make time for service. That sweaty frat party or greasy trip to Shake Shack can easily be given up. Spending an hour helping people is far more rewarding than sloppy dancing or an upset stomach.
Not all places seek big commitments and can greatly benefit from just an hour or two of your time a month. What is wrong with a big commitment anyway? Find something you’re passionate about and make a difference; that is what life is all about. Whether it’s animals or kids or nature or helping the homeless, there is truly a cause for each unique individual.
In the end, it’s a win-win situation for all. You are happy, the organization is happy, and the people helped by the organization are happy.
So why do we still view volunteering as a negative thing? Why do we moan and sigh every time we hear about service? Volunteering isn’t a chore, and if it is to you, then you haven’t found the right place to volunteer at yet. Break out of the bubble.