A day of selflessness

National Philanthropy Day passed on Nov. 15, and students at West are full of volunteer work.

Every day, millions of Americans work tirelessly in their communities, sacrificing their time and energy in hopes of improving the lives of others. However, their work isn’t always recognized by the public. Nov. 15, National Philanthropy Day, is a special day dedicated to celebrating the hardworking volunteers and raising awareness of the importance of volunteering.

Many West High students have been acknowledged for their outstanding performances in academics and athletics. However, compared to student athletes, volunteers receive little recognition. The Silver Cord program and clubs, such as 1440 Interact and Writing, Art and Creativity (WAC), were formed to create opportunities for students to volunteer and achieve recognition for their labor and time.

Volunteering is an important aspect in inspiring people to try things they wouldn’t otherwise do, as Anne Schularick, advisor of 1440 Interact, an organization that is dedicated to informing students of volunteer opportunities, expressed.

“Volunteering is a way to get people outside their own little comfort bubble and to experience the other pockets of community within the larger community,” Schularick said.

Another way in which West High has created more volunteering opportunities is through a new club called WAC. Through WAC, club founder Madeleine Roberts-Ganim ‘19, and eight other members travel to elementary schools and afterschool programs to mentor young children in creative writing, demonstrating a new type of student volunteering.

“All in all, I think the future is just going to be raising awareness and getting more people to help our cause,” Roberts-Ganim said.

WAC not only demonstrates how volunteering is beneficial to the community, but it also shows how volunteering can directly impact the volunteer themself. According to research by Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. and Lawrence Robinson, volunteering helps reduce stress, and combats depression, anger and anxiety. It also makes the volunteer 16% more likely to be happy by helping others.

“Volunteering makes you feel really good. You feel useful and generous because you helped someone else with no intention of getting anything back,” said Ethan Seylar ‘18, a volunteer at the University of Iowa and Coralville Public Library. This is an example of how volunteering gives students a sense of purpose by taking time out of their day to do a selfless act. According to research done by the Idealist, 61.8 million individuals in the United States. volunteer with a total of 8 billion hours of volunteer work. This is equal to 162 billion dollars that otherwise would be spent doing the same labor.

Schularick agrees with this idea of self-awareness.

“Rotary [International] has a slogan that says ‘Service above Self,’ and I think it’s just a great worldview to have, that you put others before yourself,” Schularick said. “Helping others is so important, and through helping others, you also receive so much more.”

Volunteering also directly influences a person’s well being. According to a survey done by Robert Half International, 61% of the 1,000 people who said they were volunteers admitted that volunteering had improved their health and made them more efficient at work. Volunteering also enables people to connect with the world and increase social skills to help with self-awareness. “[As a volunteer], you get so much great service learning experience, which can help you in the future [and] is essential to any job you might get. You can learn a lot about yourself volunteering, [and] you can learn a lot about how you interact with people and how . . . to improve upon your interactions with other people,” Roberts-Ganim said.

Iowa City and surrounding areas provide many opportunities for volunteering.

“I know a lot of people volunteer at the animal shelter, the Iowa City Public Library, the Ronald McDonald House . . . the opportunities are just endless,” Roberts-Ganim said.

“Find what you’re passionate about. Find what makes your heart sing. Find what issue you feel strongly about solving. Find something that you enjoy and then find a way to volunteer that relates to that,” Seylar said. “Volunteering is so much more fulfilling when you care about the work that you do. Don’t just volunteer because you think you should – volunteer because you want to be involved.”