Hosting a volunteer fair on campus is almost second nature to Minnesota School of Business-St. Cloud, says Career Services Representative Jessica Ward, as the campus wraps up its fifth event. Yet each one grows larger and more successful than the last. And that is the point.
“Our campus has embraced the ‘We Care’ philosophy,” Ward explains, “and this shows in the students–through applied learning, service through the Global Citizenship class, and personal growth.”
Mary Krippner, volunteer coordinator for United Way Central Minnesota, agrees. “The students here ask great questions. [The volunteer fair] is a nice way for volunteers to connect with the volunteer coordinators directly, compare, and discover their passion.”
Jenny Zimmer, volunteer coordinator for the Good Shepherd Community in Sauk Rapids, explains why her organization likes to attend the MSB event each year. “The students always seem committed. They don’t just have the idea of a certain amount of hours to meet, but they focus on a goal or need. We know they are really there for the residents.”
Ward says that shedding light on community needs is always a primary goal of the volunteer fair. “We want to make it easier [for students] to know the opportunities that are available in the community,” she says. “To help them get involved and make a difference.”
The volunteer fair, adds Service Learning Coordinator Nicole Rasmussen, “is a huge community builder. Not only does it benefit the students and the school, but it also benefits the volunteer organizations by helping them to raise awareness about their causes and … gain more help in areas that are in need.”
Community partner participation varies from year to year, but there is always a core group of attendees, including national organizations such as United Way, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Habitat for Humanity; as well as local non-profits like Good Shepherd, Hands Across the World, Catholic Charities, and the Tri-County Humane Society.
Ward adds another benefit to students who attend: future employment. “Employers want to hire people who care about building stronger communities and bring leadership qualities and unique value to the field. When you volunteer, you learn skills that are relevant and valuable to all employers,” she says.
Michelle Elyea, representing Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore at the volunteer fair, is a Minnesota School of Business Information Technology graduate who agrees with that sentiment. Her service learning project in college prompted her to become a five-days-a-week volunteer at ReStore. She finds the work rewarding, is confident that her IT skills are put to good use at the organization, and knows that the volunteer hours help her resume attract potential employers. The entire experience, she says, has brought her “pretty much full-circle.”