By Kelsey Braun ’22, Staff Writer
Every fall, Service Scholars and First-Generation Scholars prepare to go out into the Rochester community to begin their yearly volunteering at their assigned service site. This year, however, in the midst of a global pandemic St. John Fisher College has implemented new guidelines on what community engagement will look like.
According to Erin Barry, Director of the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, the decision to turn to virtual volunteerism was made over the summer. “Volunteers are so vital in carrying out the mission of local nonprofits, especially in a time like this.” said Barry, “We didn’t want to pull scholars out of these nonprofits and schools, but we felt really strongly that we had to put public safety and everybody’s health and well-being first.”
Fisher currently has 60 active partnerships with local non-profit organizations and schools all around the Rochester area. After given a survey over the summer, many of the partners have been adaptive to this new type of volunteering and going virtual has allowed for the creation of new programs for students. However, there are sites, such as hospitals, who were not able to host students virtually this year. Students who typically volunteer in classrooms at school are still able to do so virtually with the help of different technologies.
One of the biggest goals for the scholar programs is to continue relationships formed between scholars and the community partners. Sophomore First Generation Scholar, Hannah Moyer, is once again volunteering at Pencils and Paper just as she did her Freshman year, this year over Zoom. “I am glad we can do some sort of volunteering,” said Moyer, “it’s nice to get back in that and connect with them.”
This semester, The Institute for Civic and Community Engagement is looking to put more students into leadership roles within their service sites. By continuing to connect students with their choice of site, keeping in mind different academic and career pathways to provide scholars with information to understand skills they can accumulate that align with their career goals.
Looking ahead toward next semester, it is highly unlikely that there will be any in- person volunteering. “No matter what happens we’re still going to be fulfilling our purpose and serving no matter what.” said Junior Service Scholar Madi Dunn, “This is a great opportunity to get to know other service sites.”