Macalester students are busy. In addition to schoolwork, most students are involved in extracurricular activities: student orgs, athletics, performances, jobs, internships and research. But one extracurricular that might not get as much attention? Volunteering. Ariana Hones ’18 and Olivia Chew ’19 are just two of the many Macalester students that make volunteering in the Twin Cities on a weekly basis a priority.
Both Hones and Chew started volunteering at Macalester through Lives of Commitment as first years, and they have continued to do community service work on a regular basis. Currently, Hones tutors in a Study Buddy program at CommonBond Skyline Tower, an apartment complex that houses mainly Somali immigrants. She also mentors a young girl in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program at Dayton’s Bluff. Chew works with third and fourth graders in an afterschool program at Grace-Trinity Community Church in Minneapolis.
Chew got involved with volunteering because she wanted to get to know communities in the Twin Cities on a personal level. “As an international student, coming to Minnesota was new to me… I wanted to get out there beyond the campus to know the people who live here,” she said. Reflecting on her volunteer experiences over the past two years, she added that her experience at Macalester would not be the same without her weekly commitment. “If I didn’t volunteer, it would just seem like something’s missing,” Chew continued.
Hones agreed that volunteering has been integral to her engagement with the Twin Cities. She believes that everyone has the time to get involved with their community: “[Volunteering] just happens to be the way that I choose to do it.” Hones even took this commitment to community engagement internationally. While studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina last semester, Hones taught English at a language school and worked with a program called Caminantes, a community-based effort to make and distribute food around a central plaza every Friday.
Both Hones and Chew agreed that volunteering on a weekly basis has helped them connect with their community, wherever that may be. For example, although Hones has done the majority of her volunteer work during her time at Macalester, she started volunteering in high school. Among other things, she worked with her Key Club doing as-needed service projects within her local community. In addition, she participated in Teen Court, a program in which youth offenders are represented and sentenced by their peers.
These commitments helped her engage with other students in her area, as well as learn about local issues, especially within the juvenile justice system. At Macalester and abroad in Buenos Aires, Hones wanted to continue getting to know the community in which she lived by working and speaking directly with the native people.
As an international student from Singapore, Chew also wanted to volunteer to learn more about her new community in the Twin Cities. Volunteering has allowed her to build one-on-one relationships with the youth that she tutors, as well as learn about Somali, Hmong and Latinx populations.
Their community service experiences have also helped Hones and Chew develop personal skills, such as patience. According to Chew, “We can always learn something from an experience. Working with kids, I’ve learned a lot: how to interact with people, to be more creative and to be present.” Hones hopes that she can use some of these skills to work with immigrants and refugee children in the future: “Especially in the world now, I think it’s really important to make sure that energy is being invested in them,” Hones said.
And to anyone still unsure about volunteering? “Go for it!” Chew exclaimed. “There’s nothing you can lose by trying it out. And there is so much to gain.”
“Yes, you can do it!” Hones added. “It can be as easy as sitting with a buddy and eating lunch one day a week.”