“If we could do nothing else, we wish that we could instill in our students the divine art and science of doing good to others.” — Olivet College Founding Fathers
Olivet has a long-standing reputation of doing volunteer work and community service, traveling all around the world and providing semesterly Service Day opportunities for students. Due to the pandemic, Olivet could not hold Service Day as it normally would. Instead, there was a webinar presentation on the benefits of service led by Jacob Richards ’18, community service coordinator, and Rev. Mike Fales, director of service learning and campus ministries and associate professor of interdisciplinary studies and religion. There was also a number of student speakers, including Alexis Hanchett, Tara Flanagan and Mackenzie Hillsburg.
Olivet offers a number of opportunities on and off campus for students to give back to the community. “Most of the service work that we do is working with communities of people who are either unable to help themselves or have been disadvantaged in some socioeconomic way, so it’s not just a matter of doing manual labor to help people out, but it’s really trying to help people move themselves up in society,” said Professor Fales.
Every semester, Olivet has a service day with a list of projects students can sign up for, including picking up trash, gardening, organizing archives or libraries and so many more.
Olivet also has a Greek Service Day during each pledging season in Port Austin. “It’s a day where we can gather around 100 students who volunteer anywhere from six to eight service hours in that day,” Jacob said.
Weekend Service Trips
Olivet also holds weekend trips, often to places like Tennessee, the Upper Peninsula and Port Austin, which are free to students with the exception of meals on the road. “This is an excellent opportunity for students to get travel experience, help people in need and also build friendships with your fellow students,” Jacob said.
“When you jump into a van for eight hours to Tennessee or down to Florida, wow, you get to meet so many different people,” Alexis said. “It’s a super humbling experience. I always try to put myself in others’ shoes and try to relate to them. I think sometimes we forget how fortunate we are, and it’s really important to take a step back and see and appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve been given and all the opportunities that you have.”
Alternative Break Trips
For students interested in a longer service trip, there are also opportunities to volunteer during spring break, winter break and the Intensive Learning Term (ILT). These are often aimed at natural disaster relief efforts, like hurricanes and floods.
“These service trips really impacted me because I can travel around the world and meet new people in the process.” — Tara Flanagan
Olivet works with the All Hands and Hearts organization. “Their model is an unusual one, but it’s one that works very well for us,” Professor Fales said. “If you volunteer with All Hands and Hearts, they commit to covering all your living expenses and take care of you while you’re here.” All Hands and Hearts has even been active during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A key trip Olivet holds is to the Heifer International Ranch in Little Rock, Arkansas. Heifer International is aimed to teach students about world hunger and how their program empowers people to raise farm animals and become more self-sufficient. This organization is also accepting volunteers and is a place graduates may seek employment.
Benefits of Service
There are many benefits to service work, aside from strengthening yourself and those around you. It’s a chance to make change. Olivet has held the Out of Darkness Walk for suicide awareness and the Autism Awareness Walk, raising money to help people get the support they need to thrive.
Community service doesn’t just give you trade skills like putting up drywall or building roofs, but also social skills, such as leadership and empathy. It is also something that can help people stand out on a resumé . Students can even earn a scholarship for their commitment to service learning work as a member of the Difference Makers.
Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This feature was written by senior Leah Miller, marketing and communications student intern. She is a writing and history double major and a music minor, a field commander of the Marching Comets and a member Alpha Lambda Epsilon Literary Society. After college, she aspires to use her writing to educate people about different cultures and work to normalize embracing differences, potentially in a field related to intercultural relations.