Schneider: Service to Others

May 17, 2013

Meghan Benzel, a recent Landmark College graduate, served as an AmeriCorps volunteer in neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and more recently, Superstorm Sandy.

She has also worked with at-risk youth impacted by gang violence in northern California.

Now Meghan has returned to the Putney campus as a member of the SerVermont VISTA Volunteer program for Windham County. Her job is to organize events and programs that establish connections between Landmark College and the Putney community.

Megan says that her student time at Landmark sparked her passion to serve others, and helped her to become the person she is today.

And she’s just one of many motivated students who attend an institution in the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, whose undergraduate years have featured service to others.

On top of providing academic instruction and research opportunities, colleges and universities can serve to cultivate a legacy of philanthropy and civic-mindedness in students.

It’s in the unique undergraduate setting that students hone their inclinations to improve their communities, which is just one of the many intangible benefits of going to college.

In service learning, everyone wins.

Saint Michael’s College senior Ashley Lincoln spends a large portion of her free time giving to others.

As coordinator of the Case for Paws program for the past three years, Ashley has partnered with two animal shelters to match volunteers with organizational needs, and provide training and support for those volunteers.

She has also participated in three extended programs where she traveled to Kanab, Utah; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Kolkata, India, to engage in service projects. In fact, a major portion of Ashley’s time at St. Michael’s has been devoted to volunteer work.

Service to others before self is also a guiding value at Norwich University, and Barbara McCarragher, who just graduated, lives by this principle. Barbara has served as captain of the Norwich University Emergency Medical Service. She has won several campus and state-wide awards for her service to the community, and leads all Norwich students in recorded volunteer time.

Barbara completed a 300-hour AmeriCorps term in the 2010-11 academic year alone, and last year helped coordinate company-wide service projects for members of Norwich’s Corps of Cadets.

When we discuss whether going to college is worth the cost, let’s not forget an important point.

Colleges and universities provide students with a well-rounded education that includes technical skills needed for careers in many fields, but it also provides the mentoring and the opportunities for students to practice giving back to society.

These experiences combined with the credibility of a college degree make graduates unique and valuable assets to our society and its ever-evolving economy. In addition to contributing to our nation’s industry, Meghan Benzel, Ashley Lincoln and Barbara McCarragher are just a few of the countless college students in Vermont who will extend this powerful ethic of service into the rest of their lives.

And that’s good for everybody.