Published: April 12, 2019

Circle of people put their hands together

National Volunteer Week April 7–13 celebrates the impact that volunteers have in our communities. To celebrate, CU Boulder students, graduate students, faculty and staff share their volunteer experiences and what volunteering means to them.

Upcoming volunteer opportunities on campus

My volunteer journey began in the summer before starting high school. I have always heard about my friends volunteering at soup kitchens or animal shelters with their families or other friends, but my family takes family bonding a little different. We like to take lots of vacations and cook family dinners. So, I never had much experience with volunteering growing up. I was at a dermatology appointment at the Children’s Hospital Colorado, getting those treatments for the good ol’ pubescent acne. Walking to the elevator, I stumbled upon the volunteer office and decided to walk in. From that moment on, I have found my passion for volunteering and social justice eight years later.

“Throughout my high school career, I got the opportunity to volunteer at Children’s Hospital Colorado every Saturday with kids battling cancer and premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I also decided to volunteer at Planned Parenthood for a couple of hours on Sundays and was able to educate the people coming in on safe sex, the importance of contraceptives and overall healthy living.

“Coming to college, I decided to expand my volunteer experience and really try to get in the root of social justice and societal issues. I joined Alternative Breaks, and I had no idea how much my world would change and how exponentially my passion for volunteering would grow. With Alternative Breaks I was able to build, plan and lead two trips: wetland restoration in New Orleans and food access in Las Vegas.

“Volunteering is not all glitz and glamour and is not all about a ‘feel good’ aspect. It can be hard at times; it can be sad at times; it can be difficult. However, the professional and emotional growth that it gave me is incredible. I have made numerous friendships, heard the most inspiring stories, got to teach so much and really matured. For me, volunteering does not mean ‘helping people, animals or the environment.’ Volunteering is about giving back when not having the time but having the heart. Volunteering is wanting to be educated on social issues, on personal stories and wanting to see a change and be part of that experience.”

–David Ruin, CU student

I’ve been drawn to volunteering since high school with my first experience being a candy-striper at my local hospital in New York. Since then, I spent seven years volunteering as a camp counselor in Texas for children with cancer through a wonderful organization called The Periwinkle Foundation, spent three years as an emergency room volunteer at Dell Children’s in Austin, Texas, and most recently have spent the last four ski seasons as an adaptive ski instructor for Ignite Adaptive Sports out of Boulder.

“With Ignite, I spend many Saturdays at Eldora Mountain Resort teaching eager students ages 5–75 how to ski despite their disabilities. I’ve worked with children with autism, cerebral palsy, adults with multiple sclerosis, veterans, the visually impaired and hearing impaired. Volunteering with Ignite not only gets me outdoors—which is my favorite place to be—but it also teaches me patience, how to be innovative with different/adaptive teaching methodologies and how to be fully open hearted.

“Through volunteering, I have found I am more capable of recognizing my own gratitude for what I’ve been given in my life and how amazing it feels to return the favor and give back.”

–Katie Theiler, associate director of communication and marketing for the Division of Student Affairs

I serve because I realized that the more I think I know about the world, the less I actually know. Some things I never could have thought would be social issues are; and, then, I looked out and saw that it takes the effort of passionate and dedicated people to change the narrative that has always been to what [it] should be. While I may not have been the most dedicated person out there, I have come to terms that creating a culture where people care for people is rewarding, and taking this path is not just fulfilling, it is impacting.”

–Babatunde Adegoke, CU graduate student

I’ve been volunteering at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV) since the summer of 2016. I walk dogs, play with them in the yard and help their kennels feel more homey by hanging out with them in the kennel. At first, volunteering was a way to be around dogs when I wasn’t able to have a dog of my own.

“Since then, I’ve adopted my own dog from HSBV, and spending time with the dogs there has become an essential part of my routine and has grounded me through good times and bad. While I sometimes have to clean up dog messes or do laundry, I can count on every weekend including tail wags, slobbery kisses and fresh air with a canine friend. As many do, I count my dog as my family, and it is wonderful to get to care for someone’s future pet before they get to take them home.”

–Abbey Strusz, program coordinator for New Student & Family Programs

I believe in giving back to communities that have supported me throughout my life. Volunteering not only helps others but allows you to reap rewards psychologically, emotionally and sometimes physically. I started volunteering in high school, coaching younger girls in various sports in the Boulder area. This turned into a passion, and I continued to give back to younger people throughout college and beyond. I love coaching young ladies and helping them learn valuable skills both on and off the team.

“I also believe in helping those going through tough times. I love helping the Ronald McDonald house that helps families dealing with tough situations with their little ones, volunteering at shelters for women and children, and even translating children’s books for schools working with vision-impaired students.

“Whether you can give others an hour of your time or commit every week, the littlest help can lead to big impacts for others. I am proud to be a part of a class that encourages students at CU to give back to their communities, as well. This assignment often ignites a spark that makes the students continue to give back even after the assignment is over, enriching their lives and helping the communities around them.”

–Ashleigh Bailey, Space Minor program manager

I started volunteering with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WLRV) as an undergrad and just completed more than 50 projects! Doing trail and restoration work around the Front Range, I quickly saw how what I was studying was being applied, and it made everything more exciting and real! I met faculty, professionals in all kinds of industries, land managers and just a ton of really wonderful people in the area. I became a crew leader, a project leader, a cook and have been a trainer for new crew leaders across the state of Colorado for almost a decade.

I love seeing CU students on project and encouraging them in taking leadership roles and/or thesis work with WLRV. Any chance students can gain real experience in project management and supervising others is encouraged. In addition, the networking while doing meaningful work that builds your résumé is something every student should consider! Plus, they have great food!”

–Sarah Dawn Haynes, outreach and engagement coordinator for the Environmental Center

The Volunteer Resource Center would like to thank all of the CU students, faculty and staff who have volunteered through programs, on campus and in the Boulder community this year.