Volunteering: an experience not to miss

Photo by Sara Schmitt

It is a Saturday morning at 9 a.m. — where are you? For most Tech students, the response would be either in bed asleep or already up and studying for a test coming up. There is another alternative that everyone should consider: volunteering.

Whether it is through a campus department, club, religious organization or an outside company/non-profit, volunteering is a great way to use skills you have to give back to the community.

One of the best parts of volunteering is that for most roles, you do not need specialized experience to help out, and those that do often provide training. One organization that I am involved with on campus is RoboJackets (shameless plug: it is a great organization, you should join). Late last semester, some friends of mine invited me to join the Outreach team and to volunteer at FIRST robotics events on the weekends. Not having done anything remotely related to robotics, I was a bit hesitant but was quickly re-assured that I would be fine. At my first event, an FTC tournament, I was one of the judges who talked to teams who were competing for a variety of awards for their team’s performance and their robot’s design. The event staff was super welcoming and brought me up to speed with my duties and the judging process to make sure I was ready to go. I had a great time talking to the middle and high school students and hearing about their teams, their robots and all the work that went into building them. At the end of the day, I was hooked.

An additional opportunity that I have been able to contribute to is assisting with the audio/visual setup for GeorgiaFIRST events this season. I have done a lot of work with production-level video and sound systems and am no stranger to enterprise networking equipment either. As it turned out, GeorgiaFIRST needed volunteers who are familiar with A/V and networking equipment. Eager to help out, I jumped at the chance to use my skills and have a great time in the process. I really enjoy working with that equipment; combine that with my newfound enjoyment for robotics, and it’s a win/win for everyone.

Maybe it is not robotics that you want to help with but something else like taking a dog out for a day from the Atlanta Humane Society, serving at the Atlanta Mission or getting involved with an environmental sustainability group on campus.

Whatever you choose, the opportunities are out there. For a relatively small amount of your time, the benefits are substantial, both for you and your community.

For you as the volunteer, one of the greatest benefits and parts of the experience is gaining a new perspectives and opening your eyes to things you may not have otherwise seen. While my experience was seeing how passionate middle and high school kids can be about robots and helping them pursue their passions, other places like the Atlanta Mission and Seven Bridges, for example, connect you to those of a completely different background and show you a side of your community that you may have never seen. For the community, you are helping drive organizations and further causes that, without volunteers like you, would not be able to function. You are one part of a collective of those working to better the world around them.

Many things in life we take for granted — people, places, things. What luxuries many of the participants at the robotics competitions rely upon — having access to expensive robot parts and the education programs to support their teams — others could only dream of. By seeing how others live their lives through volunteering and serving your community, you can gain a new appreciation for the luxuries that you have.

Take some time and think about what skills you have that you could put to use to serve your community. The experience of helping others is not one to be passed up.