Courtesy of MENA languages program
After COVID-19 safety protocols loosened up with last year’s vaccinations rollouts, some student volunteer groups have returned to their in-person activities this school year.
Campus Kitchen works to combat food waste at Northwestern dining halls and organizes donations to local food banks. The organization’s co-president, Weinberg sophomore Sean Pascoe, said it’s an organization he’s happy to support.
“It’s the break you get from academia,” Pascoe said. “It’s nice to be doing something that’s productive, but it’s productive in a different way.”
Campus Kitchen’s work fighting food insecurity and food waste is not only important for the community, Pascoe said, but it’s also important to students who enjoy spending time on initiatives outside academics.
There’s no shortage of meaningful work to engage with at NU, and opportunities vary. The Undergraduate Prison Education Partnership advocates and fundraises for the Northwestern Prison Education Program, which provides students in the Stateville Correctional Center and Logan Correctional Center with access to coursework and preparation to increase employment opportunities, outcomes and quality of life.
One of UPEP’s main responsibilities is helping purchase supplies and raise awareness of the program’s mission, said Weinberg sophomore Kaili Wegener, UPEP’s fundraising chair. She said she got involved with UPEP because she’s seen how incarceration negatively affects individuals as well as their families and communities firsthand, in her own community.
“I really, really wanted to take action, and NU has given me the opportunity to do so,” Wegener said. “The moment I heard about it as a first year student I knew I had to get involved.”
As students find different ways to reach out to the community, new groups form. Weinberg sophomore JoJo Holm founded All Paws In, a group that sends students to the Evanston Animal Shelter to play with dogs and cats, walk the animals and clean their living spaces.
Holm said she founded the group because she misses her own dogs at home. She said she’s happy to be creating an opportunity that can lift students’ spirits while contributing to a good cause.
“Getting to play with them every week is a wonderful feeling,” she said. “Knowing that I am helping other people get that same joy and bring that joy to the dogs is what I do it for.”
The group, which received approval from NU’s Student Organizations and Activities in late 2021, will soon begin organizing regular trips to the shelter. Holm said she hopes to eliminate all barriers to club participation, including bus transportation costs. All Paws In has an Instagram page and about 50 members already.
Wegener said volunteering is vital, especially being in such close proximity to active initiatives and groups that need support. She said she hopes her peers pursue the opportunities available to them.
“We have a duty as NU students to make a positive impact on the communities that support us here,” Wegener said.
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