While the University of Nebraska at Omaha strives to be a university that calls Omaha home and gives back to the community, students are reluctant to take the time to go out of their comfort zone and volunteer.
Forty-four percent of first year students are interested in community service according to the annual entrance survey. Surprisingly, interest drops to 37 percent among transfer students at UNO.
UNO encourages each student to volunteer and become more involved with the community. This encouragement is evident through UNO’s one-of-a-kind Community Engagement Center and through multiple service opportunities offered throughout the year.
Each fall and spring, UNO offers multiple one-day service opportunities for students who want to volunteer their time giving back to the community. The “Three Days of Service” is held during fall break while the “Seven Days of Service” is held during spring break.
While students are reluctant to participate in these service projects, there are many benefits both personally and academically.
Kathleen Lyons, director of the office of civic and social responsibility, has seen students who have taken advantage of the service opportunities succeed both academically and personally.
“Students who volunteer and serve the community always do better academically,” Lyons said. “They are more aware of community issues, community organizations and see how the work they do benefits not just a local community but the entire city.”
Rob Fankhauser, a sophomore education major, feels that the work he’s done while volunteering has made a difference.
“When I look back on my volunteering experiences, I always have a feeling of satisfaction from the work I did,” Fankhauser said. “I learn more about issues while I volunteer and tend to come out with a different perspective.”
While many students may think that learning more about the community through serving is not something their interested in, Lyons explained the friendships she has seen come from it.
“We see students make a lot of new friends because they are next to like-minded people,” Lyons said. “It’s always exciting to see how much fun students are having serving while creating new social circles while doing it.”
While students learn more about the community, do better academically and expand their social circles, often times something holds back students from volunteering. Fankhauser feels that he tends to be hesitant due to the time it will take.
“When I think about volunteering, I tend to associate it with taking time out of my day when I could potentially be doing something else,” Fankhauser said. “I don’t regret it when I don’t volunteer in the moment, but I tend to regret not volunteering for other things when I’m volunteering at another event and having such a great time.”
Lyons shed light on what holds students back from becoming their better selves through volunteering.
“Often times, students just don’t know where to begin and we’re here to help them by arranging service opportunities with multiple groups that they can choose from,” said Lyons. “We provide them with everything they need to volunteer. They show up, they have breakfast, we provide transportation to and from the site and also provide the necessary equipment they need.”
This year’s Three Days of Service happens over fall break, Oct. 16, 18 and 19.