Students Make A Difference By Volunteering

USF students are investing in the Tampa Bay community by volunteering during summer break.



By Jenna Withrow News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (July 9, 2010) -- After the intense grind of the spring semester, many students fill their calendars with sun and fun. But some University of South Florida students have another entry on their summer schedules: volunteer.


The USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) provides ongoing service opportunities for students through the BullServe program. Unlike the numerous CLCE one-day volunteer events, BullServe encourages students to build relationships with their community through weekly and monthly volunteer projects.


An acronym for Students Engaging in Reflective Volunteer Experiences, BullServe allows students to use their different talents to serve the Tampa Bay community while developing leadership skills, said CLCE director Jennifer Espinola.


“Through the ongoing projects, we’re teaching students what it means to be part of the community. We feel that part of the USF experience is to give back,” Espinola said.


For USF senior Lyndsey Bressi, volunteering isn’t just a one-time commitment — it’s about making connections. As a site development coordinator for the CLCE, Bressi strives to actively educate and engage students, and inspire them to make a difference not only on campus, but in the greater community and the world.  


“USF students have the ability to make a difference. These students have the power and capability to help their community,” Bressi said. “What I like about the different projects at the CLCE office is their variety—a student can pick an area of interest ranging from hunger relief to environmental maintenance to helping the homeless, and they can be matched with a local project we offer.”


Before volunteering, students gather to learn about the social issues surrounding their project. Afterward, a student site leader guides a reflection in which students can openly discuss their experiences. The seven summer BullServe projects address such issues as homelessness, hunger relief and environmental preservation:


Hope Lodge: The American Cancer Society’s Benjamin Mendick Hope Lodge provides free, temporary housing for cancer patients undergoing treatment.  Students host a weekly game night for the residents receiving treatment.


Metropolitan Ministries: Metropolitan Ministries has helped the homeless in the Tampa Bay area by providing housing, counseling, meals, education, and more. Once a week, USF students interact with the children at the organization, playing games and making crafts.


Trinity Café: The café serves hot, nutritious meals every day — including holidays. Volunteer waiters serve free meals to homeless, poor and anyone wishing to receive a meal. Students help around the kitchen, serve and interact with guests.


Horses for Handicapped: The Bakas Equestrian Center provides free recreational horse riding opportunities for physically and mentally challenged children and adults. Volunteers assist with therapeutic horseback riding sessions.


Community Stepping Stones: Using art, volunteers mentor and educate youth in the low income, mixed neighborhood of Sulphur Springs. The program aims to develop children’s creative and critical thinking through drawing, painting, sculpture, creative writing, music, dance, performance, video and community art.


Feeding America: The Tampa Bay chapter of the largest domestic hunger relief organization in the country, Feeding America provides food to over 400,000 people in the West Central Florida area. Student volunteers sort the packaged foods delivered throughout the Tampa Bay community.


Local Community Gardens: In conjunction with the USF Student Community Gardens organization, volunteers contribute to the re-localization of food production. Students get their hands dirty to help beautify local community gardens.


The BullServe program is offered to USF students year-round. Each project requires an average of seven to 10 volunteers. Students car pool to the project sites, which are generally 15 to 20 minutes away from the USF Tampa campus. Project lengths vary from two to six hours. Students can volunteer once or come back as often as they want.


Beginning in the fall, the CLCE is hoping to expand the BullServe program, Espinola said. She hopes to have 20 weekly, ongoing service projects — double last year’s amount. The office is researching new organizations, addressing such issues as public health, disaster relief, and global sustainability.


For more information about the BullServe program and other volunteer opportunities with the USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, visit their website.


Jenna Withrow covers student activities and events at USF. She can be reached at 813-974-4014.