Students burst ‘Baylor Bubble’ … others stay in

Participants in Steppin’ Out prepare to work on a blind widow’s house on Oct. 29. Steppin’ Out is one of several events and organizations at Baylor that allows students to volunteer in the community. Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer
Participants in Steppin’ Out prepare to work on a blind widow’s house on Oct. 29. Steppin’ Out is one of several events and organizations at Baylor that allows students to volunteer in the community.
Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

Baylor has more than 15 official student organizations dedicated specifically to service, numerous fraternities and sororities that require members to volunteer, and various other opportunities for students to get out into the community and lend a helping hand. However, not all students choose to actively volunteer in the community.

For Lantana junior Janice Wong, service events like Steppin’ Out and service organizations like Campus Kitchen are a good fit for getting involved in the community. Wong is on the steering committee for Steppin’ Out, which organizes a day each semester for volunteering throughout the community with various projects, and includes about 2,000-3,000 student volunteer participants.

“The mission [of Steppin’ Out] is to raise awareness for students to see what Waco is like and how they can serve practically,” Wong said. “[Steppin’ Out] also [works] to unify students and help establish leadership in students, while giving them a taste of what service is really like.”

Wong also volunteers once a week or every two weeks, depending on her schedule, with Campus Kitchen, which grows and cooks food and distributes it to various agencies in the community.

About 360 students are registered volunteers with Campus Kitchen, and there are service opportunities Monday through Friday.

Chico junior Jacob Creighton volunteers through Alpha Phi Omega, which is a co-ed service fraternity. A certain number of service hours are required of its members for every semester and there are different volunteer opportunities throughout the week, which allows members to choose a project that fits their schedule and interests.

Service projects range all across the board and include opportunities with Fuzzy Friends Animal Shelter, Crestview Retirement Home, Habitat for Humanity, World Hunger Relief Farm and Mission Waco, among others.

“I try to [volunteer] at the hunger relief farm,” Creighton said. “I really enjoy that project. It’s getting your hands dirty and I enjoy that kind of manual labor.”

Creighton said he joined Alpha Phi Omega because of its diverse group of members and its service-oriented commitment.

“For me, it was important to find a group of people I could get to know and it was important to me for it to be a diverse group of people who were all interested in giving back,” Creighton said. “We get the benefits of giving back to the community and the pleasure of having a brotherhood and a good group of people.”

Mary Katherine Van Hook, project manager and placement coordinator for community engagement, service, and scholarship, said that according to the department of Student Life, nearly 10,000 students are actively involved in volunteering in the community for a total of more than 60,000 hours annually. Van Hook said since students are beginning to hear about the community engagement, service and scholarship office, more are coming by looking for opportunities to get involved.

“We’ve seen individual students come in and ask for different volunteer and service opportunities and we also hear from organizations as a whole who are interested and really just want a better way to learn about these opportunities in the community, and that’s where our office comes in,” Van Hook said.

Van Hook said the office has students answer a few questions related to their interests and availability in order to match them with an organization they can best serve. Van Hook said the office works directly with many local organizations, including Meals on Wheels, Texas Hunger Initiative, several food pantries and different churches.

“We are trying to help out the niches [in the community] that haven’t been filled yet, and that students haven’t heard about,” Van Hook said.

However, not all Baylor students feel compelled to volunteer or are able to find the time to get involved in the community.

Joshua junior Colton Dearing works as a tutor at Brook Avenue Elementary School two days a week, but is not a volunteer since he is paid. He said although he enjoys working as a mentor in the community, he does not get the chance to volunteer in Waco.

“I have no time; I work 10 hours a week and have classes,” Dearing said. “The weekends are my time to relax.”

Coppell senior Brad Parker does not volunteer in the Waco community, although he is involved in the Coppell community.

“I’m more apt to volunteer in my home community,” Parker said.

Although he has been at Baylor for four years, Parker said he has never found a service organization he was compelled to get involved with.

“For the first several semesters of school, I was merely very lazy,” Parker said. “I am probably more inclined to do something [to volunteer] these days, but accounting kind of rules my life so I pretty much only have time for that and just a little bit of extra time for relaxation.”

Although he does not volunteer, Parker said that he thinks Baylor students are eager to volunteer in the community.

“As a whole, Baylor students seem quite willing to help out and give a hand, but maybe that is just because we live in Waco,” Parker said. “Waco is pretty clearly impoverished and even kind of walking around the outskirts of campus you can see the effects of it.”

Parker said since many students at Baylor come from middle class families, it could be a culture shock to come to Waco and see the poverty-stricken parts of the city.

“I guess that compels a lot of people to want to help out [in the community],” Parker said.