Volunteer work engages SMC

Until recently, Santa Monica College students seeking volunteer opportunities had to look on their own. However, with the Associated Students leading the search, volunteer work is now accessible on campus.

The Civic Engagement Program, led by AS Vice President Alex Vandertol, provides students with a platform to find volunteer opportunities.

"It is meant to broaden the volunteering opportunities of SMC students," Vandertol says, who also mentions that students not involved in clubs, such as Alpha Gamma Sigma, Phi Theta Kappa, the math club, and others, have weaker leverage in finding volunteer opportunities.

"This will give opportunities to students who are not directly involved with specific clubs," he says.

Vandertol says that the addition of a volunteer booth within SMC's job fair is beneficial to both local and international students.

Local students benefit from the job fair, but for international students who usually cannot work in this country, it helps to have volunteer work available to them, he says.

The CEP table during the job fair brought in around 50 applications, which Vandertol says is an excellent start.

Although he has taken the program's reigns, the motivation for the CEP comes from Van Tran, the primary commissioner for the AS vice president.

"I really wanted us to connect more to the different organizations to get students more engaged," Tran says. "I really am hoping that this program is going to somehow try to get students more active on campus

not just go to school and go home, but reach out to the community and see who they can help."

Tran, who sports a long history of volunteering, says she has not had any terrible experiences when searching for volunteer opportunities, but instead feels that volunteering has helped her status as an international student.

"I've always found volunteering important, especially because I'm an international student," she says. "We can't work, so it's also a way for us to gain some work experience."

Tran says the CEP is an effective outlet for students not only to volunteer, but to help out with something they feel strongly about.

"I'm very passionate about human trafficking, so I volunteered at [the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking], where they help human trafficking victims," she says.

Tran feels that not knowing what to look for, who to call, or what applications to fill out can be intimidating for a student seeking volunteer work.

"This program would already establish the ties with an organization so that it's easier for the student to just go volunteer," she says.

One organization set in the CEP's sights is "Tree People," an organization that encourages people to plant and care for trees in different locations throughout Los Angeles.

On Sunday, the AS took a number of students up to the Santa Monica mountains in an attempt to restore an area plagued by fires and drought.

Although only a total of 15 people made the first trip, Vandertol hopes to increase the number of volunteers for each event as the program grows.

"In the future, we will have larger events," he says. "We're hoping to have relationships with volunteering organizations so that students who want to continuously volunteer at any given length of time can do that."

Vandertol hopes to organize a fundraiser for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines almost two weeks ago.

Vandertol says his ultimate goal for the program is for it to grow.

"I really want this program to be focused on bringing people together and helping the local community, and maybe in a couple of years, go even further," he says.

To access the CEP, go to the AS website via the student services link on the SMC website. Once on the page, click the "Civic Engagement" link, and follow the instructions on the page.