Last Friday, Belmont University's Office of Service-Learning hosted the annual Community Connections Fair, where students and community organizations came together to explore volunteer opportunities for the year. The event, held on campus, provided a marketplace for students to engage with a range of nonprofit agencies and initiatives, fostering a spirit of community involvement and service that is a hallmark of the Belmont community.
Eleri Hadaway, a senior English major and social justice minor, has worked in the Office of Service-Learning for four years and is an officer for Belmont University Volunteers for Literacy (BUVL), a student organization focused on increasing volunteers toward literacy initiatives. Her favorite volunteer event is the annual Family Literacy Day, an interdisciplinary event that is aimed at children from pre-K through grade 6 and their families and is designed to celebrate the joys of reading. The primary focus of the event is Reading Circles, hosted by various campus groups.
“What Belmont Volunteers for Literacy tries to do is to help kids reframe how they think about reading,” Hadaway said. “Reading can be liberating, reading can be fun. Reading can be something that takes you on an adventure if you don't otherwise get to leave or things like that.”
She adds how important the experience is for student volunteers as well: “Belmont can be a bubble, especially for students. You're surrounded by only other college students, so it's great to just actually be plugged in with the community that surrounds us. I think there's so much to learn there, and there's so much richness in this community.”
Part of her hope for students in BUVL and beyond is “shifting the student mindset” when it comes to volunteering. Instead of a requirement to graduate, it can become a “staple of life.” “As I've gone through my career at Belmont, some of the most meaningful moments I've had have been through my service-learning, doing things in my off time that I'm not getting credit for and nobody's going to know about, but I'm glad I did it because it changed me.”
The Office of Service-Learning (OSL) offers the fair as an opportunity for students to learn about various volunteer programs and causes, connect with like-minded individuals and discover ways they can contribute their time and skills to make a difference. OSL also works with academic programs across campus to incorporate service-learning opportunities within courses.
Over the past year (Aug. 1, 2022 to Aug. 1, 2023), the total number of donated hours tracked equaled 34,188 hours, representing a value of over $961,366.56 based on the Tennessee volunteer rate of $28.12 in 2022. The number of volunteer hours increased 6.72% from the previous year (2021-2022).
The following agencies and initiatives received the most volunteer hours logged from students, faculty and staff:
- Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC) - 2,837 hours (aging and disability resources)
- Barefoot Republic Camp - 646 hours (summer camp fostering diversity and unity)
- The Store - 601 hours (grocery store)
- Dream Streets - 551 hours (empowers underprivileged youth through mentorship and educational programs)
- The Branch of Nashville - 487 hours (support and resources to refugees and immigrants)
- Rolling Hills Ministry - The ALOE Family - 437 hours (services for refugee community)
- Pawster Nashville - 396 hours (animal welfare)
- Metro Parks disABILTIES Programs - 330 hours (inclusive recreational opportunities)
- Family Literacy Day - 282.75 hours (celebrating joy of reading for elementary age students)
- YMCA Literacy - 324 hours (literacy skills and education for all ages)