Volunteers engage local kids at Intersection

Cookies+for+cash%3A++Senior+Rasheeq+Nizam+bakes+cookies+with+a+Russell+Elementary+student+at+the+Intersection+in+preparation+for+today%E2%80%99s+bake+sale+to+sponsor+RBHS+teams+for+a+dodgeball+fundraiser+next+month.+RBRO+volunteers+at+the+Intersection+Monday+through+Friday.+Photo+by+Aniqa+Rahman%0A

Cookies for cash: Senior Rasheeq Nizam bakes cookies with a Russell Elementary student at the Intersection in preparation for today’s bake sale to sponsor RBHS teams for a dodgeball fundraiser next month. RBRO volunteers at the Intersection Monday through Friday. Photo by Aniqa Rahman

Ashleigh Atasoy

Cookies for cash: Senior Rasheeq Nizam bakes cookies with a Russell Elementary student at the Intersection in preparation for today’s bake sale to sponsor RBHS teams for a dodgeball fundraiser next month. RBRO volunteers at the Intersection Monday through Friday. Photo by Aniqa Rahman

Covered with building debris and cinders, sophomore Natalie Wigger shuffled through the tornado-torn remains of Joplin High School.

Traveling more than nine hours by bus to and from the demolished city, the sheer destruction that clung to the town overwhelmed Wigger. In the face of broken dreams and lost memories, she tried her best to clear the area.

My family and I “went to Joplin, and we helped pick up trash there, and we just helped to pick up debris, recycling what could be recycled and throwing away what couldn’t,” Wigger said. “We worked the whole day.”

Since her experience in Joplin, Wigger has grown to adopt volunteerism as an important aspect of her life by assisting in as many places as possible, ranging from building houses in Jamaica to packaging food to be sent halfway across the globe. Striving to help others, Wigger has also found volunteer opportunities through Rock Bridge Reaches Out. Serving as a starting point for student volunteers, RBRO organizes nine core groups to serve throughout the community.

“Our purpose is to make a difference in Mid-Missouri and to introduce students to the joys and value of service,” club sponsor Kathryn Weaver said. “Rock Bridge Reaches Out student volunteers are having a huge impact in our community.”

EEE teacher Kathryn Weaver started RBRO in 1999 during her senior year of high school. The club flourished into a thriving group, now boasting over 500 members. Split into core groups, each tackling a different cause, RBRO covers everything from horseback riding to stream clean-up and aims to get high school students involved locally.

“High school is such a critical and really neat time when you’re developing your identity,” Weaver said. “I think it helps to prepare you to be more conscience, more humane. I also think that through service you get exposed to populations that you might not otherwise, and that’s really valuable.”

Among the benefits of volunteering, RBRO co-president senior Nidhi Khurana sees volunteering positively when applying to colleges. Heavily involved locally, Khurana has an impressive volunteering resume, working at the food bank and the St. Francis house.

“As I’ve been applying for colleges, the gist that I’ve gotten is that colleges want to know what you’ll bring to their school, how you’ll help them,” Khurana said. “With volunteering you’re helping the community. You’re giving up some of your time to do something to benefit the whole … It’s a good quality and a good trait in a person.”

This new trend of community service is essential for universities across the nation. According to www.dosomething.org, volunteerism is in the top five admission factors. Surveying 50 of the nation’s top universities, the site found that more than half value volunteering as the fourth most important factor in the admissions process, falling in behind extracurriculars, but ahead of reference letters, legacy status and interviews.

“We don’t get an algorithm from colleges. We can’t say that one thing is weighted more than another thing, but in counselling kids, it seems more and more that [colleges are] looking at … the total package, so I can’t tell you if they’re equally weighted, but I would say that they’re close,” Weaver said. “Your GPA, your scores, … the rigor of courses that you’ve taken and then all the additional experiences that you’ve had … along with your essay can really paint a whole picture of who you are.”

In the end, regardless of whether or not volunteerism really does boost one’s chance of getting into a certain college, Khurana insists that college admissions shouldn’t be a student’s main motivation for volunteerism.

“For me, personally, I’ve led a very blessed life, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities, and I feel like I’ve gotten lucky,” Khurana said. “I want to give back to the community that gave me the opportunities that I was given.”
By Ashleigh Atasoy