After COVID-19 disrupted her freshman year at Wichita State University, Emma Reichenberger wanted to get involved on and off campus.
She joined the Kappa Delta Chi sorority, and its emphasis on community service helped her grow more comfortable with public speaking and gave her a sense of accomplishment. Reichenberger, a senior in elementary education, volunteered for service projects such as Meals on Wheels and The Lord’s Diner. She also mentors girls at Pleasant Valley Middle School and Wichita North High School.
“It gave me more of a purpose,” she said. “It’s opened up my social skills. It’s gotten a lot easier to talk in front of (student groups) or anybody else that I need to.”
Reichenberger is one of many Wichita State students who helped student organizations, the Community Service Board, and fraternity and sororities complete nearly 14,000 service hours in fiscal year 2022. According to independentsector.org, that time saves local and national service organizations $410,167 worth of labor cost.
Student Engagement, Advocacy & Leadership
That time also reflects a growing interest in and emphasis on community service by students and faculty, said Gabriel Fonseca, director of WSU's Student Engagement, Advocacy & Leadership. The VolunteerICT platform, which WSU and the United Way of the Plains collaborate on, allows Wichita State to track the hours. Students can search for volunteer opportunities that interest them, fit their field of study or career goals, and look through options of groups in need of help.
“(Students) are engaging in the community and exposing themselves to things the city has to offer,” Fonseca said. “We’re starting to see a lot more of our student groups, our fraternities and our sororities, and some of our larger student groups, that service and volunteerism are becoming a basic value of theirs and are connected to the work they’re doing on a daily basis.”
As an elementary education major, Reichenberger finds her mentoring work in schools rewarding and helpful for her career. She and other Wichita State students provide young girls a role model who has recently navigated many of the same issues in school. They encourage the girls to think about their future education and how to set and reach those goals.
“It’s nice to be talked to by someone who is actually going through the process,” Reichenberger said. “Having a mentor program that I didn’t necessarily have growing up is why I really like to do it.”
One of the students, Reichenberger said, expressed problems with bullying. The Wichita State students listened and got her help from the school.
“She felt lot more comfortable talking to us,” she said. “It did get better. She started to open up more. She said that she really enjoyed us being there. I hope that by telling us and us telling her teachers, that situation did get better.”
Fonseca said the Community Service Board expands its offerings regularly in response to student feedback. Working with the Shocker Neighborhood near campus and on sustainability issues are recent additions, and he estimated VolunteerICT grew by 15-20 agencies over the past two years.
Those connections, Fonseca said, result in students finding community service opportunities that fit their interests and career plans. One recent student volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association and is now a full-time employee.
“More and more we see students who are fascinated by the non-profit world and want to learn more,” he said. “We are able to get them connected to those agencies. We provide our students with a robust experience and a lot of them are expressing their appreciation for those opportunities.”