Over the next few weeks, bright-eyed freshmen across the country will hear this rallying cry in the halls of their colleges and universities. Whether it be through a community service organization, ethnic or religious student association, club sport, academic society, or Greek organization, freshmen will eventually understand that the best way to make friends is through student organizations. There are plenty of reasons to get involved, but the most significant one of all, which often gets left out of the conversation, is that students are granted the unique opportunity to make a difference in their community.
Studying in a major and diverse city like Miami presents students with an overabundance of ways to participate in community service.
The Butler Center for Service & Leadership, for one, is a major force of student involvement on campus. The center puts on a minimum of five service days each year- Orientation Outreach, Hurricanes Help the Hometown, MLK Day of Service, Gandhi Day of Service, and FunDay. Students can dig trenches in Wynwood to help with irrigation of community gardens, pick invasive weeds off of native trees in Coconut Grove, sort food at Feeding South Florida (a local food bank), paint a mural at a local elementary school, or experience carnival-like games while guiding a child with special needs around campus for a day. The Butler Center ensures that we truly can live the university motto of transforming lives through teaching, research, and service.
Students engage best with the community on issues that they are personally passionate about. Members of the student-run Scientifica Magazine, which publishes science-related stories, attended the Miami March for Science last April. Marchers brought out their signs, lab coats, knitted “brain” caps, and most of all, their tremendous concern for the state of science in the current political climate. Scientifica set up their own booth at the event expo to engage with and educate the community, hosting a food science booth where students cooked up burrata “caviar” to serve on a molecular caprese.
The city of Miami really has come to rely on the young, intelligent, and compassionate work of UM students. However, this will only continue if students continue to be involved. So as freshman enter the semester looking for ways to fill their time, I strongly encourage them to find one or more organizations that appeal to them. Yes, you will make friends. But the real difference will be seen in the people and communities who benefit.