Photo of McKendree Students Volunteering at Chakota Riding Center

Lessons Learned

Giving their time, energy, enthusiasm and manpower, McKendree students often discover they get back something meaningful in return - leadership skills, a different perspective or a new understanding. Students describe some of their experiences as volunteers at weekly programs coordinated by the University’s Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service:

Lebanon and Cedar Ridge Care Centers

We play bingo or sometimes we just chat, and this is a nice break from the residents’ daily routine. Helping the elderly is an insight into the lives of people you normally don’t think about in your day-to-day lives. Volunteering weekly there reminds me of the “hidden” faces of America and brings to my mind the elderly in care centers around the nation.

~ Ken O’Dell, sophomore biology major, Carlyle, Ill.

I think that people our age think we have forever and that life is not precious. We forget that one day we will, hopefully, be elderly and that they deserve the same respect - more, actually, than what we give them.

~ Hannah Johnson, senior sociology major, Carterville, Ill.

I never knew I could make such a big difference to someone like I know I am doing at Cedar Ridge. The residents make my Sundays and push me to do better. When I volunteered last year, they made such an impact that I visited them a couple times over the summer. How will this program help me with future challenges? By fixing my attitude. I know the residents depend on our positive attitude; it really helps make their days. At first everyone is a little hesitant with the elderly, but to me they are like a bunch of great aunts and uncles. No matter their age or disability, they are just like anyone else and just need a friend.

~ Hope Waters, junior music education major, DeSoto, Mo.

Franklin Neighborhood Association Arts & Crafts, Belleville

The children adore us and look up to us as role models. Being able to see their faces each week gives me something to look forward to. I want to be an elementary school teacher and also have my own day care. If I get this excited to see students once a week, I can only imagine how excited I will be once I get my own classroom and my own children.

~ Autumn Twardowski, junior elementary education major, Herod, Ill.

Bridge the Divide, Special Needs Horse Therapy, St. Jacob

When you ask the kids what they look forward to, they say, “Coming back next week.” It is humbling to be a part of something that means so much to them. Participating in this program has really brought me down to earth. Seeing the riders get so excited over the littlest things puts life into perspective.
It reminds me to cherish the little things and to take nothing for granted.

~ Chelsea Knight, sophomore biology major, Toledo, Ill.

We give the children a fun getaway, while also giving parents a time to see their kids truly happy. I love seeing those children smile, but I also get to see them improve. I have watched these kids grow and gain confidence. Seeing how much they are able to take away from something as simple as a 30-minute horse ride makes me strive to focus on the little things.

~ Darren Meeker, senior speech communication major, Charleston, Ill.

Lebanon Outreach - Lebanon Kids, Inc. Tutoring Program

Early education is a critical stage in a child’s development, and falling behind at a young age can have devastating effects in the higher grades. By helping the students stay on track in the present, we are improving their chances for success in the future. I have grown as a student and as a leader throughout my time volunteering. I have gained a lot of confidence, learned how to better communicate with children, improved my delivery when explaining concepts for the first time, and become a better problem-solver.

~ Anthony Rhoads, senior mathematics major, Litchfield, Ill.

Lebanon Outreach at Pentecostal Power Church

I love helping others learn and grow, which is why I want to be a teacher. I feel like we are doing very important work here and helping mold these children into great thinkers. We are teaching them how to be better students; they are teaching me how to be a better educator. PPC provides an opportunity to work with many learning styles and helps me master the skill of getting someone’s attention. I have learned to deal with different situations I will experience as a teacher, so this is great practice for my future career.

~ Edward Howell, senior elementary education major, Makanda, Ill.

Christian Activity Center, East St. Louis

The CAC helps keep kids off the streets and brings them to a place of religion, love and safety. Many children that attend do unfortunately live in homes without love, a role model, or fun. Every day (and I am guilty of this) we complain about how hard classes are, we fight with our loved ones, we despise our busy schedules, and we tend to forget that there are other people in the world besides ourselves. I am around kids every week at CAC that have it much worse than a lot of us do. Even though they have it rough, they are enjoying every bit of the day they can, especially the time spent with volunteers. This program means the world to me because I can use my God-given gift of service to benefit these children in a positive way. As a result, I have become a stronger person and developed a more loving heart.

~ Ashlyn Beasley, junior sport management major, St. Elmo, Ill.

I spend time in the gym shooting hoops or playing volleyball. I also tutor and read books to the younger kids. As part of the CAC’s new Pathways College Access and Success Program, I help students achieve their goal of attending college by narrowing down what they would want to study based on what they like to do, and ultimately help with the admission and application process. It has given me a broader outlook on different challenges I face in my life. I can relate the skills I learn from the staff, and the kids, to my own life goals and situations. At the CAC I not only feel like I am influencing their lives, but they are influencing mine in a larger way.

~ Britani Beasley, sophomore speech communications major, St. Elmo, Ill.