Get out and give back: Baylor needs to step up service opportunities

By Ashlyn Kennedy | Reporter

As students at Baylor, we are privileged to live in a welcoming community. As great as we have it on campus, it can be easy to forget that the greater Waco community is in need of help in various areas. Baylor needs to be more intentional about providing service opportunities and encouraging students to get out and give back.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Waco has a 24.8% poverty rate. The most recent population census taken in 2022 had 143,984 people in Waco. Essentially, this means that about 36,000 people in our city are currently living in poverty. With 20,824 students at Baylor, both undergraduate and graduate, there could be a lot of change for the better if everyone gave a little bit of their time to volunteer.

Baylor has historically been good about connecting students to the city of Waco, from promoting local businesses at events to giving incentives for students to explore off campus. The university hosts Steppin’ Out once a semester, where about 1,500 students volunteer around the city. Students are also able to find service opportunities in individual organizations, but I don’t think it’s implausible to ask Baylor to be as passionate about service as it is about other areas.

Whether it’s hosting several service days throughout the semester, partnering with nonprofits to spread awareness or creating more service projects for students to participate in, there are so many opportunities for Baylor to highlight the needs of the Waco community. There are a lot of students who don’t know how to look for ways to give back, and a great starting point would be through the direction of the university.

I have been able to serve all over Waco with several nonprofits and volunteer organizations, and there are so many different communities that need help. No matter what someone’s interests are, there is a volunteer opportunity fo them. Salvation Army feeds dinner to the homeless. La Puerta provides services to the Spanish-speaking community. The Cove provides shelter and support for homeless youth. Caritas fights food insecurity. Mission Waco has all sorts of opportunities to serve. If you’re more of an animal person, the Humane Society always needs people to help with the animals it rescues.

Service is a great way to give back and support the Waco community. It gives new perspectives and inspires empathy, and if you are religious, it is one of the best ways to live out your faith. In Waco, we have a huge opportunity to make real differences in people’s lives. I would love to see Baylor put a bigger spotlight on this need, and I would also love to see people getting out of the Baylor bubble and into the Waco community to volunteer.