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Don’t wait until you are sick to help the sick

​Students should volunteer to help, not to boost their resumes

WeekEND Hunger Backpacks
Students pack "WeekEND Hunger Backpacks" during the Spark to Serve event on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015 in the Memorial Union in Tempe. The event, organized by United Way, allowed incoming freshmen to assemble aid packages for those experiencing chronic hunger.

Volunteer work is an activity few of us make the time to complete. We all have other responsibilities that benefit us directly. When we do complete volunteer work, as college students, it's for the sake of our resumes in our career field of choice.

If we do choose to volunteer for a cause, it is because that cause is directly relevant to our lives. For example, a person with a grandmother afflicted with Alzheimer’s may find it gratifying to volunteer at a walk to raise money for a cure to Alzheimer’s.

However, we ought not wait until a cause touches our lives before attempting to help others.

We can see this trend in the fluctuation in number of college student volunteers. For example, there was a spike in the percent of college students who volunteer following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, increasing from 27.1 percent to 30.2 percent from 2001 to 2005. So many lives were affected by these attacks, so it is only natural that people would want to help, but it shouldn’t take a national disaster to bring young college students to action. 

There are clearly various problems that need addressing, especially in the health field. Hospitals and programs dedicated to raising awareness and money to promote the prevention of disease are always in need of volunteers. Those who are volunteering for the wrong reasons are usually adequate enough for the job. However, pegging volunteer work as a resume booster is devaluing to volunteerism.

Volunteering is not intended to paint you in a certain light; it is an outlet to help you help others.

“With the competitiveness of getting accepted to the nation's top colleges, students are often forced to portray themselves as altruistic individuals,” Cheryl P. Andrada, a student from Queens, said in NY Times Letter to the Editor in 1997. “Many of us students take it upon ourselves to volunteer for humanitarian functions under the guise of benevolence, but with the true motive of including it in our all-important college applications.”

This would explain why there was a high rate of volunteers for the 16 to 19 year old age group (at 26.4 percent) and a low rate of volunteers for the 20 to 24 year old age group (at 18.4 percent) in 2016. For many, volunteering is a means to an end.

At ASU, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities, usually for events specific to one’s major. These opportunities are highly beneficial to one’s future success in their field of choice. For medical school, this is especially important. Extensive volunteer work is an expectation on applications to medical school. To aid students in prepping for this arduous application process, American Medical Student Association (AMSA) has a subdivision at ASU.


AMSA provides students with various volunteer opportunities, but members of the club don’t want students to feel like they are just running through the motions. They want students to feel the gratification of being active members of a community.

“Volunteer work is so rewarding because it teaches you to care about others selflessly and wholeheartedly,” Stephanie Christensen, community service coordinator for AMSA at ASU, said. “It's important, especially for medical students, to see the injustices in the world and think critically about what we can do to correct it and how we can help in our line of work. Even when the volunteering/task is unenjoyable or perhaps uncomfortable for you, you can't go about your life ignoring the fact that there is inequity in the world. There's nothing more valuable than connecting with, and helping, other people.”

There is no better time than now to help others. Although other motivators may be present, we ought to dedicate our time to a cause because we care. 

Reach the columnist at or follow @ghirneise2 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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