All throughout the fall semester, Student Involvement & Leadership Development (SILD) has been helping students find opportunities to give back to the community.
Destiny McDonald, director of Community Service for SILD, said the push for students to get involved starts as soon as students arrive to campus.
“As a part of Welcome Days in the fall, incoming freshmen are encouraged to participate in Saturday of Service, an event which involves a morning of various service projects in DeKalb County,” McDonald said. “The hope is that we introduce students to service possibilities early on in their college career so that it becomes a norm in their lives.”
Other efforts SILD has coordinated this past fall semester include Rake Across DeKalb and the Volunteer Fair, which brings in local organizations to recruit students for volunteer opportunities. The spring semester offers two major community services initiatives implemented by SILD, one of which is the Huskie Alternative Break Program.
The program allows students to travel during the university’s spring break to a destination within the U.S. and assist with volunteer efforts, such as disaster relief, McDonald said.
The largest community service event organized by SILD is NIU Cares Day. The event draws more than 1,200 volunteers to participate in service needs around DeKalb County.
“We have a very passionate group of students here at NIU who are always looking for ways to give back to the community. There are times when I have a plethora of students seeking volunteer opportunities and not enough opportunities to direct them to,” said McDonald.
Students also seek service projects outside of the major opportunities that SILD provides.
For example, students and other members of the NIU community have stepped up to give back to people who have suffered through some of 2013’s worst natural disasters.
Events and donation drives to benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan were sponsored by an NIU Tagalog class, the Philippine Student Association, Filipino American Association of Northern Illinois, NIU Asian American Center, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Asian American Association, Alpha Phi Gamma, Chi Sigma Tau, Kappa Pi Beta, Kappa Phi Lambda, Delta Chi, Philippine Student Association, InterVarsity, Gamma Phi Omega, Alpha Psi Lambda, Engineers without Borders and the Asian American Center.
Most recently, there has been a collaborative effort set forth by various members of the university community to help those who were affected by the tornado that touched down in Washington, Ill., on Nov, 17.
Students and staff from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, Media Services and Alpha Phi Omega worked together to gather donations and deliver them to the Washington area. The group has made two trips so far and plans to make at least on more before the start of the spring semester.
Senior engineering major Pettee Guererro is among the group of organizers for the effort to help the people of Washington.
“We have received so many donations including items such as shoes, clothes, blankets and coats,” Guererro said. “It is amazing how everyone has come together to give so much, and it is great to know that we are helping someone in need.”
Donations for Washington have been received from across the campus community, including from the NIU Bookstore, the Bursar’s Office, Building Services, Athletics and Blackhawk Moving and Storage, which
donated the use of its truck and driver to transport the donated goods to their destination.
Beyond delivering the goods, a group of volunteers also helped with clean-up efforts.
“We basically worked moving giant piles of very heavy debris from people’s yards to the street, where the movers could get to it,” said Jay Orbik, director of Media Services. “It was hours of backbreaking work.”
by Constance Ervins