might need to work late. And he commutes three hours a day, sings in an all-male chorus, participates in faith groups
through his church and helps his girlfriend,
a teacher in the Bronx, grade papers.
“It’s very easy on the Carolina campus,
in addition to regular weekly commitments, to do one-day service projects,” he
said. It’s tougher in New York, but he has
managed to find some through his church
and the city’s Volunteer Referral Center.
And he hopes to do more.
Lynn Blanchard ’ 89 (Ph.D.), who directs
the Carolina Center for Public Service, said
that one key for alumni struggling to fit
service into their hectic lives is to “connect
it to your life, so it’s not just something else
you do but really has relevance to your
skills and interests.
“Often [service] is something you put
on your list and you’re going to get to it,”
she said. “You try to turn your intentions
into action, but sometimes that’s hard if
you’re moving to a new place and a new
life. If it seems like too much, you can
think about some easy ways to get your
feet wet in a new community. Service can
be a great way to get to know a new community.”
Part of the center’s role, she said, is to
help students explore all the dimensions of
service: direct service such as tutoring or
serving meals; organizational service such as
serving on the board of
a nonprofit; and policy
service, which addresses
through policy change
within an organization
or at the state or
“That’s what we
really hope people will
leave here with, the idea
that service is not just
something we do to feel
better, or, though it’s a Mehul Patel ’07, left, graduated as a Public Service Scholar. As a stu-
great thing, to make dent, he worked in a medical clinic in East Timor. He plans to
volunteer in Nepal before going to medical school.
COURTESY MEHUL PATEL ’07
individuals’ lives better,
but something that contributes to the life ond time when Hurricane Rita threatened
of a community,” Blanchard said. “That a month after Katrina. But she didn’t hesi-may be where alumni come in, doing tate about returning. “I’m only a second-things like serving on school boards and in year teacher, and I don’t really know what
the legislature. Service encompasses volun- I’m doing, but this is something I can do,”
teerism, but there are many who have jobs she said at the time. Her own living situa-that are public service. It’s not just what tion was chaotic — she lived with other
you do for no pay.” For some, she said, teachers in empty classrooms for a time,
public service becomes their work. then in a series of make-do arrangements
That was the case for Meredith Flowe — but she continued working in schools
’04, who was with Teach For America in just outside New Orleans where there were
New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward when many hurricane evacuees.
Hurricane Katrina hit. She lost her own Flowe’s experience in post-Katrina New
house and had to evacuate the city a sec- Orleans gave her a passion for community
How to Find the Right Volunteer Role
1. Choose an issue or a charity that
matches your interests and values.
6. Think about where you’d like to
volunteer. In your home community?
Elsewhere in the country? Abroad?
COURTESY STACIE WEST ’03
2. Identify your talents and skills
that you would like to use in a volunteer
7. Decide if you’d like to volunteer
alone or with friends or family.
3. Identify the kinds of tasks you’d
enjoy — and those you don’t want to do.
4. Clarify your goals for volunteering. Do you simply want to help out?
Develop new skills? Make professional
contacts? Discover a feeling of community?
8. Determine how much time you
can give. Decide whether you want a
one-time project, an ongoing, regularly
scheduled commitment or full-time volunteer work.
9. Ask yourself if you want to start
immediately or are willing to go through
5. Consider the types of people you
would like to help and the types of people you would like to have working with
10. Research the organizations
you’re considering through their Web sites
and through a nonprofit evaluator, such as
Whether working in a group or as an individual, deciding what type of volunteer environment you want is an important first step.
charitynavigator.org, guidestar.org or