August 13, 2008

Student volunteers make a difference in region

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The impact of student volunteers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale is unmistakable in the region.

Between August 2007 and July 2008, more than 5,500 students contributed 34,023 hours of service through Saluki Volunteer Corps, a campus civic engagement program. Some gave of their time individually while others worked through Registered Student Organizations.

Moreover, the Registered Student Organizations and students living in residence halls raised an impressive $42,000 on behalf of local, national and international organizations and charitable causes. More than 60 non-profit organizations benefitted from the efforts of SIUC student volunteers.

Two groups of students chose an alternative spring break, helping people still suffering due to hurricanes. A group of 18 students joined with the Newman Catholic Center to build two homes in Mobile, Ala., while another group traveled to Louisiana. There they painted and installed shelves and books for a children’s library. All told, the two groups logged more than 800 hours of service.

Mythili Rundblad, coordinator of Student Development at SIUC, said there’s also ample proof of the difference Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps members from SIUC make in the lives of the children they work with. In September 2007, 45 percent of the children in the classes with AmeriCorps tutors had a C or higher average. When the academic year ended in May, 70 percent had a C or better grade average. In addition, Rundblad noted that the children’s absentee rate and the disciplinary referrals both dropped significantly with AmeriCorps members tutoring and mentoring.

The 15 AmeriCorps members each completed more than 70 hours of training, conferences and professional development. They assisted more than 500 children in the Carbondale Elementary, Du Quoin, Murphysboro, Unity Point and Elverado school districts, providing nearly 11,000 hours tutoring and mentoring.

Seeing what the SIUC students accomplish is no surprise to Rundblad. But, she never ceases to be impressed with the young adults she encounters in her work.

“As coordinator, I make every effort to increase awareness of volunteerism and to get the students involved in civic engagement,” Rundblad said. “When I see the numbers of students involved, the wide range of community organizations that have been helped and the total number of service hours completed by our students in Saluki Volunteer Corps, it is simply awesome!”

“I am also proud of our students involved in Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps,” Rundblad added. “It is a big commitment to take a full course load of classes and tutor and mentor children for more than 20 hours each week. The AmeriCorps members complete 900 hours of service in a year. They demonstrate their commitment to making a difference every day.”

Volunteer efforts haven’t gone unnoticed either. Community partner organizations nominated SIUC individuals and student organizations for community service awards. Winners of the Delyte Morris Award for Excellence in Community Service for 2007-2008 were Anthony Cruitt, a senior political science and financial economics major from Sullivan, and Lionel Grant, a senior zoology major from Dolton. Environmental Ambassador Awards went to 16 students for volunteering on behalf of environmental projects.

As the fall 2008 semester kicks off, SIUC students can become involved in Saluki volunteerism. The first major upcoming event is the Day of Service, set for Saturday, Sept. 6.

To participate in Saluki Volunteer Corps, students can stop by the student development office on the third floor of the Student Center and meet with Rundblad or her staff to look at the many volunteer options. To make an appointment, call 618/453-5714 or visit the office between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

There is an application and selection process involved in Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps. For more information or to learn about joining, contact Rundblad at 618/453-5714 for an appointment.

“I get so excited to see the students participate in volunteerism,” Rundblad said.