By Heather Cass
Publications manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend
Rare is the college student with spare time on their hands. After attending classes, studying, completing assignments, and working at a job or internship, students have precious few hours and little energy left.
Yet some Penn State Behrend students still make helping others a priority. They say service work is not draining, but inspiring and rejuvenating.
“I always tell people that they don’t know what an amazing feeling community service is until they try it,” said Nicole Overby, president of Circle K, a service club at the college affiliated with Kiwanis International. “The drive home after a volunteer event is the best feeling in the world. Knowing that you helped someone and did something to better the world around you gives you a feeling that cannot be explained, only felt.”
There are at nearly a dozen service-focused clubs at Behrend, and many more student groups and organizations that include service projects as part of their regular activities.
Overby first became involved with Kiwanis in high school.
“I was in Key Club, which is the high school branch of the Kiwanis Club,” Overby said. “Circle K is the name given to clubs at the college level.”
Behrend’s Circle K club includes twenty members from a variety of backgrounds.
“It brings together students from all majors, races, and genders,” Overby said. “It is such a diverse group, which is awesome because it means that we come up with lots of different volunteer ideas and activities.”
Among the group’s endeavors this academic year: cleaning wheelchairs and gurneys at Saint Vincent Hospital; participating in Relay for Life; helping at the Kiwanis’ antique show and bowling night; volunteering at Holy Trinity soup kitchen; taking the Special Olympics’ Polar Plunge; raising funds through the college’s Cardboard City event; cleaning up several local highways; and assisting at Meals on Wheels.
“I think the soup kitchen was one of my favorite events,” Overby said. “Besides prepping the meals, we were also able to distribute them and sit and interact with the clients. It is important to open our eyes and have compassion for the hardships others face. It also makes me much more grateful for my own life and the opportunities that I’ve had.”
Most recently, Behrend’s club hosted the Circle K Club’s spring officer training, drawing newly elected club officers from several colleges in the area including Mercyhurst and Edinboro Universities and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
There was, of course, a service project embedded in the day’s activities. Attendees assembled and prepared coloring books to give to Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Erie.
Overby, who is majoring in Accounting will be doing an internship at Bank of America in New York City this summer. She expects to graduate in December and sit for the CPA exam before returning to Behrend to earn her M.B.A.
While Overby is still pondering the area of accounting she wants to focus on, she’s sure of one thing: She will continue her service work in the future.
“I will definitely seek out the local Kiwanis Club in whatever city I end up working,” she said. “I love interacting with different people and having volunteer events to look forward to. I feel like community service helps me as much as it helps others.”
If nothing else, Overby’s service work has taught her to find the good in others. When asked who inspires her, she said: “Every person. Every day.”
She further explained: “I have met coworkers who have three jobs to provide for their families. I have met peers in my classes who are taking crazy amounts of classes so they can graduate early and save money. I have met faculty members who go out of their way to help students because they truly care about them. These people inspire me every single day. I hope that I can inspire others someday.”
Did she inspire you?
Circle K meets bi-weekly on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in Burke 105. To get involved, come to the next meeting on February 28 or email Overby at firstname.lastname@example.org.