February 20, 2012

Serve Your Community, Serve Yourself. ~ Hayley Samuelson

World Bank Photo Collection

From a young age we are socialized to view community service as an obligation.

Some high school requires that every student complete a certain number of hours before graduation. When you get into trouble with the law, a result can be enforced community service and when entering into the work arena no resume is complete without those hours committed to giving back.

Why is it that most of us only do community service when we are required to?

Recently, I sought out a volunteer opportunity because I thought my resume was lacking in the area. To be honest, I took the job for the sole purpose of boosting my resume. It is the mindset we can get sucked into in this fast paced world. We have to build an incredible resume if we want to get a job and we have to get a great job if we want to make money. We have to make money to be successful.

Getting sucked into this way of thinking distracts us from something that is truly important. It can lead us to take for granted the communities we live in.

Within 10 minutes of my first day volunteering at the YWCA Bolder Girls program, I realized I had been stuck in a bubble of  a “me” oriented lifestyle.

My role at this program was to mentor 4-6th grade girls about how to be reporters, in the end of the 3 month long program they will publish a story in the local newspaper.

As journalism major, I thought this would just be an easy way to give back; it has turned out to be much more than an item to put on my resume.

The first day each girl went around the room sharing their ambitions: “I want to be an author”, “I’m going to work for the Wall Street Journal just like my dad did”, “I love to write”.

They are so sure of themselves, it made me feel an ounce of regret for not being there to help girls like them before. Seeing how passionate a 10-year-old is about life, the future and writing put things in perspective for me.

Every Wednesday for two hours I sit down with these girls and help them understand the principles of journalism, research stories, share ideas, structure sentences, answer questions, laugh and goof around.

Each of these tasks come almost second nature to me it forced me to question why don’t I help my community more?

This is not to say that I don’t give back, I have participated in philanthropic events in my time here in Boulder, in fact one of the most rewarding days of my life was when I worked in South Boulder on a Habitat for Humanity project. I just get sucked back into a social and scholastic world and service takes a back seat in my mind—I should not allow this to happen.

We should not allow that to happen. Volunteer opportunities are everywhere, they are not all hard labor nor do they all require extreme commitment (thought they can).

I am learning a great deal about myself from working at the YWCA, the girls I mentor teach me each day how important it is to follow my passions and never lose a mind that is free of inhibitions. I get a chance to empower women, helping them be more confident in themselves and in turn they help me realize how great and empowering it feels to know I can impact not only their lives but the community we live in.

Serving the community around you not only benefits the city and people but you as well. Doing good deeds is good for the soul.

If we reap the benefits of any institution or organization in our community shouldn’t we give back so others get the same privilege?

The older we get the more obligations plague our day to day life, it gets increasingly difficult to make time for philanthropy.

What if we took a breath, slowed down and gave back? What if we did community service because it is just a good thing to do and not because we had to?


Hayley is studying journalism, politics and international media at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In between juggling school and various jobs, she makes time to snowboard, travel, write and craft. She surrounds herself with people that motivate and embrace her as she strives to make a difference in anyway she can. Follow her on twitter.


Read 5 Comments and Reply

Read 5 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant journal  |  Contribution: 1,375,490