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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

A chance to give back: Volunteers called to make a difference

By Sarah Van den Akker
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 17, 2004

As the school year begins, many students find themselves ready to get involved with the community outside of the classroom. Fortunately, the St. Olaf Volunteer Network, a program on campus that helps students get involved with the community, held its annual fair Wednesday evening in Buntrock Commons.

The fair helped students find out more about the many volunteer programs available to them on and off campus. Each service group allows interested students to take part in helping the community, whether it involve mentoring middle school students in Northfield or helping people learn English as a second language.

Some programs were formed by St. Olaf students, but many more programs are based in Northfield and use St. Olaf students as volunteers. Other programs, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is a program that anyone across the nation can join, but has a branch at St. Olaf. These nation-wide programs are open to any student interested and committed to helping others, beautifying the environment, or just having a good time.

Many of the volunteer organizations allow St. Olaf students to mentor or take care of children in Northfield. One program allows St. Olaf students to help out with local Girl Scout Troops. Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), is a program in which volunteers take care of young children while their mothers can relax and socialize with other mothers.

Megan Gray '05 has worked extensively with MOPS and finds the work very self-gratifying.

"I really appreciate working with MOPS because I think its really fun to spend quality time with kids since you dont really get that opportunity very often," she said.

Nightingale Project is a mentor program that matches female students from St. Olaf with middle school girls from Northfield. Ashlee Duimstra '05 feels that this program is helpful for young teenage girls because she remembers tough middle school years.

"Lets be honest," she said. "I know how awkward those middle school years can be. The Nightingale Project sets out to provide middle school girls with positive female role models from St. Olaf."

Other opportunities for St. Olaf students to work with kids in Northfield include Project Friendship, Freepops, Study Buddies and After School Unlimited.

Other groups focus on brightening the days of the elderly in downtown Northfield. The Northfield Retirement Center Organization has volunteers go down to the Northfield Retirement Center for one hour every two weeks to spend time and engage in fun activities with its residents. Program Director Breanna Peterson '06 feels fortunate for the opportunity to spend time with people so different from herself.

"I really enjoy the people because they have such interesting and different lives than we have in college," she said.

Another organization, Three Links Care Center, allows volunteers to Adopt-A-Grandparent and spend time with them once a week.

The St. Olaf Environmental Program is an example of the many organizations here at St. Olaf that allow volunteers to work on beautifying Northfield. In this program, students work to beautify St. Olaf as well as the arboretum at Carleton College. Program Director Amber Collett '07 feels that this organization is not only beneficial but fun, "I like being outdoors and getting other people involved."

No matter how students want to get involved on campus, there is definitely a way to do it.

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