Project Impact kicks off a year of volunteering

Students always want more of three resources: time, money and sleep. So when Union College students are given a day free of classes and other on-campus commitments, it may seem counter-intuitive that 85 percent choose to show up at 8:15 a.m. to spend the day working—for free. But students make up for what they lack with an excess of enthusiasm and altruism. On Thursday, Sept. 4, Union students will once again commit their time and energy to serving the Lincoln community.

"I think everybody wants to help others," said Sara Baptist, sophomore communication major from Canon City, Colo. "When something presents itself like Project Impact, we jump on it. If Union held it more often, people would still go."

Began in 1981, Project Impact has given students the opportunity to change their corner of the world wile establishing lasting connections within the community. An estimated 15,100 volunteers have impacted Lincoln with more than 99,000 hours of voluntary labor since its inception. According to available research, it's the longest running collegiate service day with the highest percentage of participation in the nation.

There's no brownie points, no extra credit—nothing to motivate the mass of students to join the cause other than satisfaction and a free t-shirt. Whether it's raking leaves, painting shelters, serving up soup or helping build a house, Union College students and faculty turn out to do whatever sweaty, grimy work needs to be accomplished for those in need.

Building on the students' energy and 27 years of success, Ann Bryant, senior business administration major and Project Impact coordinator, sees the event as a way for students to connect with agencies they can serve all year. This will be the fourth year Union's women's basketball team will spend the day helping at the Lincoln Children's Museum, a relationship that has grown as the players return throughout the year to help with events.

"I like volunteering. I feel it's important," Baptist said. "It's not easy for kids to just say 'I'm going to volunteer this weekend.'" Students like Baptist can find ways to do more by talking to Union's student volunteer coordinator, Kaylea Blackburn, sophomore international rescue and relief major from Summersville, Mo., or read about a different volunteer opportunity highlighted each week in the Clocktower, Union's student newspaper.

Bryant, now in her third year of planning Project Impact, sees this year's event as a learning experience for her peers. "Of all the pressures you would think could keep students from volunteering—homework, class, extracurricular activities, the price of gas, whatever--the biggest barrier is awareness," Bryant said. "I've learned that the more people I involve in the planning process of this event, the more people understand the purpose of Project Impact and then are able to take on that passion themselves."

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