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2010 July 26 - 12:00 am

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Indiana College Students Volunteer, Help Community

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — After repeated pleas to pass him the ball, Dawaan Smith, 7, got his chance.

The ball came his way. He grabbed it and looked up at the basket. He raised his hands, lined up the shot and went for it. As the ball went through the hoop, Dawaan ran off yelling, “Woohoo!”

It was just another sunny, summer scene at the Beck Lane Boys and Girls Club — this one supervised by Isaac Faber, an Ivy Tech Community College student and a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club.

People, including Greater Lafayette’s rich collection of college students, are looking for ways to volunteer, said Joyce Fasani, director of the Lafayette Urban Ministry emergency homeless shelter. That observation was based on her own experience at the shelter.

But a recent report suggests that Fasani’s anecdotal evidence is right on. About 29.5 percent of Indiana adults volunteered somewhere at some point in the past year, according to the 2010 Volunteering in America report by the Corporation for National and Community Service. That’s the federal agency responsible for supporting volunteering and national service through programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America.

The rate was the same percentage of Hoosiers who volunteered in 2008, but a decrease from 2006, when the volunteer rate was 31.5 percent in Indiana. Still, at 29.5 percent, Indiana ranked 19th in volunteer rates nationwide, according to the report. The national average was 26.8 percent in 2009.

In Greater Lafayette, agency leaders say, the volunteer scene gets a huge boost from college students. For a growing number of students here, volunteering has become a requirement.

“It’s being integrated as part of the course work,” she said.

Fasani said that as Purdue University students leave for the summer, she’s seen her numbers decrease. But over the past year, she said she’s seen an increase overall. She said people want to help each other more, partly because the economy is bad.

“They learned they can survive by helping each other,” she said.

Purdue and Ivy Tech students are volunteering through classes, degree programs and on their own, said Harry Brown, assistant dean of students for community engagement and involvement. He also leads the Boiler Volunteer Network.

Brown said that in 2005, about 3,000 students called his office looking to be placed in volunteer positions in the community. In 2009, there were 6,600.

That doesn’t include students who had to do it for a class or did it through student organizations.

Students want to volunteer, Brown said. They’re more community-oriented than they once were and many started when they were younger — before they arrived on campus.

But, he said, many of those students don’t have the connections in the community or know where to volunteer.

He said Purdue students do a good job.

“Purdue students are very popular,” Brown said.

Andrew Antonio, executive director for engagement and diversity at Ivy Tech, said students on the Lafayette campus work with service learning projects through classes.

The college also helps with large-scale community events.

The college is going to start to ask clubs on campus to have some kind of volunteering component and is going to start a volunteering network website, Antonio said.

In a college where 90 percent of students are from the Lafayette area, many feel a need to get out and help their communities, he said.

At the Boys and Girls Club, Faber played basketball, kickball and threw a baseball with the kids, having fun with them but also making sure they kept safe.

Faber said he saw a commercial for the Boys and Girls club one day and decided to apply.

“I was thinking of either volunteering here or at the humane society,” Faber said.

Karli Reich is a Purdue nursing student. She said she started volunteering regularly at the Lafayette Urban Ministry emergency shelter about a year ago, on her own initiative. At night, after going through the shelter rules, she ushers clients into the shelter for a meal.

As they eat, Reich talks and jokes with them. The shelter tries to get its clients permanent housing.

Sara Bradley, who described herself as a drifter born in Florida, came to Lafayette in May. She said the volunteers are nice.

“I do my best to get along with them,” she said.

One recent night, Purdue football players Gerald Gooden, DeVarro Greaves and Bruce Gaston were dishing out spaghetti and potato soup.

Gooden started volunteering at the emergency shelter as part of a class, but then stayed on. Gooden invited Greaves and Gaston to join him.

“Why not do something good if you’ve got the opportunity?” Gaston asked.

Comments: editor@ccweek.com

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