"During the last year, EIU students have logged over 110,000 hours of community service, more than double the amount five years ago. The spirit of service thrives at EIU!"
These two sentences, part of a recent entry to EIU President William Perry's Eastern Ways blog, clearly illustrate the enthusiasm Eastern's top administrator possesses when it comes to seeing his student body give back to the community and beyond. That enthusiasm, however, is not President Perry's alone. Thanks to programs like Jumpstart 2 G.I.V.E., it's an enthusiasm working its way into Eastern Illinois University culture.
Jumpstart 2 G.I.V.E. (Getting Involved in Volunteer Efforts) -- a partnership between the offices of Student Community Service and New Student Programs -- is part of the Prowl activities planned for freshmen and transfer students during their first weekend on campus.
Participants choose between some 25 service opportunities in Charleston, the surrounding area or right here on campus. Projects range from fundraisers and work for local non-profit organizations to "community aid" trips to nearby towns. Other opportunities involve interacting with local youth as well as work to benefit seniors, veterans and those who are victims of natural disasters and other unfortunate circumstances.
For some students, Jumpstart 2 G.I.V.E. is a life-changing experience.
"When I transferred to EIU for my junior year, I was surprised at all the Prowl events that were required of new students," remembers Ryan Snodgrass, one of the dozens of students who worked as a Senior Prowl Leader at this year's service projects. "I was pleased that I was able to get involved in the community so quickly, and I loved doing it."
Snodgrass, a communication studies student, went on to become a Prowl leader the following year and a senior Prowl leader this time around. He participated in the Soup Stop Car Wash to benefit the local soup kitchen; his group increased last year's donation total by over 50 percent and then had that $160 total doubled thanks to a silent donor.
"Being a leader on the EIU campus is great because it gives me a platform to show people how much I love EIU and the community around it," said Snodgrass.
"Having Jumpstart as one of the Prowl events on Opening Weekend is great because from the first few days a new student steps on campus, they can know how easy and fun it can be to help others in their adoptive community."
Junior sociology major Abby Wilburn was also involved for a third straight year, serving as a Senior Prowl Leader at the "Community Makeover" in nearby Oakland.
"Personally, I get a sense of accomplishment and overall joy knowing I did something that will impact someone else," said Wilburn. "We never truly realize how our actions can impact someone, and seeing them come to life makes my day — and should make everyone else's!"
Another Senior Prowl Leader, Jennifer Seiler, echoes those sentiments.
"I love making an impact on people's life, whether it be little or big," said Seiler, a history major. "The best thing about volunteering is knowing that because you put in a little bit of time and effort, someone's day was made, and that's one more smile on a face. Yes, volunteering does feel good, but most importantly it's about helping out a neighbor."
Seiler took part in the Kid Power project, making handheld board games, school supply kits and decorated folders, cards for hospitalized children, friendship bracelets, and animal bead keychains. More than 400 school kits were assembled and sent to local schools and after-school programs.
"It gives students the opportunity to make a difference on the campus and the surrounding area," said Seiler. "It also gives students a preview of what volunteer opportunities there are in the area and how fun some of them can be. What's better than helping someone out while having fun? It shows students that Charleston is not just a college town; we are a community."