VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: KELSEY PARKER ’17
Kelsey is a graduating senior this semester with a passion to serve her community. Read more on how her experience at Pace, and her involvement with being civially engaged off campus has impacted her life and how she plans to continue being involved after graduation.
Year of Graduation: December 2017
Major: Environmental Science
I think it’s really important to use some of your free time to try and make the world a little better of a place. Those positive impacts have a ripple effect that we may never see, but is really important in the grand scheme of things.
Being as civically engaged as you are, could you talk a bit about your experience with some of your favorite organizations?
Right now I am doing most of my volunteering through New York Cares. People basically go to them and say “hey, we need X number of volunteers for this project at this time. Can you find people?” and New York cares posts it on their website. SO they have tons of opportunities that could fit into anyone’s schedule. I just started volunteering with City Harvest every other Saturday and St. Ann’s Episcopal Church every Sunday morning. Both are things I found on the website.
I know that being a full-time student is extremely time consuming, how do you keep motivated when it comes to serving for your community?
I always try to remember that I’m human and I need breaks. I had a particularly stressful week last week, so I decided it was best for me not to volunteer that weekend, so that I could recover. As disappointed as I was that I could not make it, I knew that I wouldn’t be very helpful if I was tired or if I was putting myself behind in school. I also selected the opportunities that I did because I knew that I would enjoy doing them which would keep me motivated to get up early every weekend. It is so important to volunteer somewhere that you enjoy, because you won’t be doing much good if you’re not happy to be there. It’s also important to remember that what you’re doing is important and helpful.
Could you tell us a bit about your time spent in Africa? How has the time you served there impacted your life?
I spent a month last summer at a monkey sanctuary in the Kakum Forest of Ghana. It was a life changing experience for sure. I realized how much I loved animals and travel. I had never been outside of the US before that trip, so of course I was really nervous to go to Africa alone for so long, but I knew it was going to me amazing. Of course, travel has its risks and I got pretty sick while I was there, but the bumps along the road taught me a lot about overcoming obstacles and that some things are just beyond your control, so you just have to make the most of them.
How has your time at Pace helped influence your drive for community service?
I think Pace opened my eyes to how many opportunities there are to be involved. I grew up in a really small town in West Virginia, so people were not very engaged beyond school activities like sports or band. Here I’ve found that there’s an opportunity for every interest and that places really take into consideration how busy New Yorkers are when they ask for volunteers.
Now that you’re about to graduate, what are you looking forward to the most? What are your future plans?
I just finished applying to the Peace Corps and Fulbright, so I’m crossing my fingers that I’m lucky enough to be selected for one of those after graduation. If that doesn’t work out, I’m also looking at graduate schools to study either zoology or conservation biology. My time in Ghana made me realize that I really want to work in ecosystem restoration and animal conservation, so that’s my goal.
There are a ton of resources available to find volunteering opportunities. It’s just putting aside the time and going out and doing it that’s the challenge. Once you start, it’ll be something you look forward to each week, so you just have to take that first step.
Why do you think it’s important to be civically engaged and make time for community service?
If a volunteer project is set up it’s almost always because there’s something that needs done, but isn’t getting done. St. Ann’s feeds families weekly nutritious meals. That’s the only meal some of those people get in a week. If they didn’t have volunteers to do the work, it would likely never happen and those people would be left to starve. I think it’s really important to use some of your free time to try and make the world a little better of a place. Those positive impacts have a ripple effect that we may never see, but is really important in the grand scheme of things.
What advice could you give a student who wants to become more involved in their community, but doesn’t know how?
I thoroughly suggest working with New York Cares if you don’t have a lot of time for volunteering. You can narrow down your volunteer opportunities by interests, dates, times, and even train locality. A lot of the programs are for two or three hours at a time, so it is easy to find something for even the busiest schedule. They always have a project manager on site who is friendly and helps explain exactly what you need to do. The Center for Community Action and Research always has great opportunities as well where you can volunteer with people from Pace if you’re anxious about who you’d be with during a project. There are a ton of resources available to find volunteering opportunities. It’s just putting aside the time and going out and doing it that’s the challenge. Once you start, it’ll be something you look forward to each week, so you just have to take that first step.
This interview was conducted by Cesar Ballesteros
Student Outreach and New Media Projects Coordinator on Pace University’s NYC Campus