Student volunteers enjoy helping others

SIUC AmeriCorps -- The 2009-2010 Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps group at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is active in community service as are the Saluki Volunteer Corps and other individual students and student groups. AmeriCorps members are: front row, from left, Lori Jones, Kara Reed, Lindsay VanBrocklin, Toni Manzella, Jackie Bessette; back row, Paul Beckmeyer, Raymone Fleming, Will Ryan, Brandon Anim and Cale Fields. (Photo provided) Download Photo Here

February 22, 2010

Student volunteers enjoy helping others

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Shane Conway-Peterson is pleased he can have a positive impact on people’s lives, but he’s also quick to say that he’s learned much and gained much from the many hours he’s volunteered through Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Saluki Volunteer Corps.

A senior biological science and psychology major from Moline, Conway-Peterson discovered Saluki volunteerism shortly after he completed his stint in the Navy and came to Carbondale.

“I was looking for a way to connect, to get to know the area, and to give something back. But there are so many things I take away from this. I’ve learned all kinds of skills and what sympathy, even empathy really mean. I’ve been able to help out others who are less fortunate and develop relationships, really get to know people. They become like family. They each have a face, a history, a story. It’s tough to walk away when they’ve opened their lives and made you a small part of it,” Conway-Peterson said.

He’s logged about 700 hours or more, helping with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Meals on Wheels, Good Samaritan House, the Abundant Health Resource Clinic and elsewhere. He served meals, answered phone calls, and helped with paperwork and whatever else he can. After graduation and a short time off, he plans to go to medical school and become a physician, further indication of his concern for people.

He is just one of a very large group of SIUC students who give of themselves, their time and their energy to improve the world around them. During the fall 2009 semester, 3,536 students participated in the University’s civic engagement program, Saluki Volunteer Corps. Some gave a few hours while others gave hundreds, helping about 45 different non-profit organizations throughout the region, the country and the world.

In all, the SVC members contributed about 25,000 hours of service in just a few short months. The students and the SIUC Registered Student Organizations also raised approximately $5,000 in the one semester alone to help local and national non-profit organizations, according to Mythili Rundblad, coordinator of Student Development

That’s not all. The Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps team worked with more than 300 children. They help kids from the Carbondale, De Soto, Murphysboro and Unity Point school districts with schoolwork and more. Rundblad said the University students logged more than 3,000 hours tutoring and mentoring the younger children during the fall 2009 semester.

“Each year, I have the opportunity to work with some remarkable students in Saluki Volunteer Corps and AmeriCorps. Being full-time students and working to support their education is already demanding but students involved in both SVC and AmeriCorps amaze me by their willingness to give their time and effort to help worthy causes and organizations. We in Student Development strive to help them learn and develop as citizen scholars and to express to them how much they are appreciated,” Rundblad said.

There’s still time to get involved with Saluki Volunteer Corps. Just stop by the Student Development office on the third floor of the Student Center and meet with Rundblad or her staff and find out about the multitude of volunteer options. Students can call 618/453-5714 or just stop by between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Conway-Peterson said when he talks to others about volunteering, they’re sometimes initially hesitant or reluctant but eventually they come to the same conclusion. They find they take more away from the experience than they give, he said.

“I think it’s great. SIUC has a ton of opportunities to volunteer and Student Development does a good job of finding those opportunities for students,” said Lori Jones, a senior elementary education major from Belleville.

Jones grew up in a household where her parents were involved in service work through their church, rebuilding homes and more. She also volunteered through National Honor Society in high school so by the time she came to SIUC, her commitment to service was strong and she found many opportunities to continue through Saluki Volunteer Corps and AmeriCorps. She’s helped students in kindergarten through fifth grades at De Soto Elementary School, worked with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and helped with special events such as Bowl for Kids Sake.

“To do something just for the good of it, not to get paid but just knowing you’re making a difference really feels good,” Jones said. She plans to graduate in May, complete graduate school and teach.

Lending a hand also is nothing new for Stephen Putbrese, a junior finance major from Flora. His first volunteer work came through his church and since arriving at SIUC, he expanded his efforts into a wide variety of service projects including planting trees, cleaning up the community, helping at Abundant Health Clinic and assisting with the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs.. Cancer and Relay for Life.

“I’m thankful for what I have and glad to be able to help out my fellow man, to reach out and assist others,” said Putbrese, who hope to attend medical school after graduation.

Participants in Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps participate in a selection process. To learn more about the organization, contact Rundblad at 618/453-5714. Each year a select group of students gets the opportunity to participate in Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps; each pledges at least 900 hours helping children through local schools. Students can participate in the organization no more than two years.

The 2009-2010 AmeriCorps group, listed by hometown along with major and year at SIUC (with # behind the name designating if this is the second year in the program) includes:




• Lori Jones, senior with degree, elementary education.


• Lindsay VanBrocklin, sophomore, political science.


• Raymond Fleming #, senior, university studies.


• Paul Beckmeyer, junior, history.

New Lenox

• Jackie Bessette #, junior, English education.

• Toni Manzella #, junior, social work and psychology.

Olive Branch

• William Ryan, junior, political science.


• Cale Fields, senior, microbiology.




• Brandon Anim, senior with degree, MEDPREP.




• Kara Reed, junior, biological sciences.