Valuing the Greater Good: Volunteering, as Part of a College Requirement, Ignites a Passion for Helping Others and Offers a Chance to Gain Real-World Experience

Posted on 11/7/2014 3:08:12 PM

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From left: award recipients Shannon Kovalchick and Brandy Rummel, President Michael Driscoll and Ruth Riesenman

Helping others proved to pay off for Shannon Kovalchick and Brandy Rummel. What started out as a requirement turned into a passion and a way to hone skills that may prove vital in their future careers.

The pair recently dedicated so much of their time to helping others that they received the 2014 Foundation for Indiana University of Pennsylvania Community Volunteer Service Awards. IUP encourages students to volunteer, even making community service mandatory in certain classes, but these students truly exceeded expectations.

Kovalchick, a psychology and sociology double major in IUP’s Cook Honors College, began volunteering because of the honors college’s requirement of 30 hours of community service per semester. She currently volunteers at the Alice Paul House, a shelter for domestic violence survivors, and also in IUP’s psychology department as a research assistant.

“I want to be a clinician, and, through volunteering, I have developed many skills that are going to help me reach that goal. At the Alice Paul House, I have been given experience with introductory counseling, handling crisis calls, and learned what other services to refer people to,” Kovalchick said.  

So far this year, she has logged about 300 hours of volunteer work. A student in the honors program in psychology, Kovalchick is both on the dean’s list and a provost scholar. She also is a member of Honors Connection, a service group. Though she is an inactive member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor society, she still volunteers at their service events when she can.

Rummel, a child development and family relations major, initially began volunteering as a class requirement. After sifting through the ample amount of service opportunities she was offered, she decided to become involved with the Indiana County Department of Human Services. From doing clerical work, to collecting data from community members for the Special Populations Information Registry, to planning, working with and participating in the Suicide Task Force Walk for a Wonderful Life project, Rummel has gained a wide variety of experience through the organization.

“Volunteering has really been a great way to get a foot in the door for me. I’ve met so many people in my prospective field, and helped an even larger number of people in the community,” Rummel said.

Rummel currently volunteers about eight hours a week, and volunteered on a full-time basis this past summer. She was also recognized as an “Angel on Earth” by the Suicide Task Force Walk for a Wonderful Life project due to her dedication and outstanding efforts to promote suicide awareness.

“Everyone says, ‘Oh, I don’t have time to volunteer’, but you do. It really doesn’t feel like that much time, and it’s so worth it,” Rummel said.

—Ailey Clark, intern, IUP Communications and Marketing