For those who want to participate in community service and leadership initiatives at the University of Miami, the Butler Center for Volunteer Service & Leadership Development (SLC) delivers.
“Service and leadership is a big part of my life,” said Natalie Fontela, a rising sophomore majoring in athletic training. “It’s just something that makes me happy and every time I volunteer I leave with an experience that opens my eyes to lives outside of my own little world.”
Fontela became involved with the SLC by joining STRIVE (Serving Together Reaching Integrity, Values & Engagement) her freshman year. STRIVE is a “living and learning” organization under the SLC in which students share a common living area in Pearson Residential College and are committed to civic engagement, volunteer service and leadership endeavors, according to the SLC Web site. Members must complete a certain number of service hours a week, participate in service programs and take part in a mentoring and networking program with their peers.
“Being in STRIVE and around the members just encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing and never give up on the passion of helping my community,” Fontela said.
Rising senior Matthew Robayna, a political science major, also found the perfect avenue for becoming involved with community service early on by taking advantage of the SLC’s Freshman Leadership Academy, which offers students the opportunity to attend personal development workshops and seminars, during his first year at UM. He is currently a community assistant for STRIVE and has served as a site leader for campus-wide service events such as National Gandhi Day of Service and travel-based service programs such as UM Alternative Breaks.
“Leadership to me is really about taking initiative: seeing something that needs to be done, be it a small task or something that changes the world, and actually doing it,” Robayna said. “One of the things I love about the SLC and the programs that I participate in is the tie-in between service and leadership, in the sense that leadership is strongly focused on taking service to another level.”
The SLC also offers other programs to first-year students who wish to make a difference in their community and refine their leadership skills. First Year U helps students become better acquainted with their professors and the Miami area while learning about leadership. There is also a Freshman Fellows program that enables freshmen to become more involved in community service.
All of the SLC’s programs revolve around the Active Citizen Continuum model. According to Robayna, the model says that there are people who volunteer their time without really understanding what they are doing or what the larger purpose behind their service is, and the SLC wants to turn that around.
“It should be the goal of service and leadership education to help people understand root causes behind social issues and move them to dedicate their lives to working to affect change at the root rather than on the surface level,” Robayna said.
For more information, visit the SLC’s office in Whitten University Center, Room 240.
Alexandra Leon may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.