Guest Post from Dr. George Danns, Professor of Sociology, UNG
Over the past three years, the University of North Georgia has hosted Volunteer Fair 2010, Volunteer Fair 2011 and Volunteer Fair 2012. We encouraged our students to serve, to learn, to volunteer!
This Volunteer Fair has become an annual initiative and it is the only one of its kind currently hosted in North Georgia. It gives community agencies access to a sizable pool of potential volunteers. Each year we have mobilized and encouraged more than 500 students to attend the event and to seek opportunities for service learning, internships and volunteering with participating agencies. Over 50 participating agencies were able to get their fill of volunteers and were loud in praise for this UNG organized initiative. We do not currently invite the general public because of venue limitations and the need to institutionalize our own linkages with the community agencies. We also concentrated mainly on agencies from Hall County at this time for similar reasons. UNG will continue to expand this service in the future.
In fact at this year’s Volunteer Fair 2013 the Riverside Military Academy and Flowery Branch High School respectively have requested participation of 20 – 25 of their students seeking volunteer opportunities.
The Volunteer Fair functions to:
- Enable experiential learning of our students through service learning, internships, and open volunteer attachments.
- Facilitate faculty in developing practicum elements to their course offerings.
- Provide knowledge, awareness and institutional contact for students and their families, faculty and staff and all those in need of the services offered by these agencies.
- Promote inter–agency relations among participating community organizations.
- Significantly expand the economic impact of the University of North Georgia on the community by availing participating agencies innumerable volunteer hours provided by our students.
- Function to advance the University of North Georgia’s missions of “service,” “quality education” and “the development of students as leaders for a diverse and global society.”
The University of North Georgia Volunteer Fair recognizes and celebrates the immense contributions of the nonprofit sector to our community. It is civic engagement par excellence! Among the 50 plus community agencies that have consistently participated over the past three years are: United Way of Hall County, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, American Red Cross, Gateway Domestic Violence Shelter, Women Source, Northeast Georgia Health System, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Gainesville Police Department, Hall-Dawson CASA Program, CASA, Rape Response, The Humane Society, The Arts Council, North Georgia History Center, Elachee Nature Center, Keep Hall Beautiful, Compassionate Hospice, Disability Resource Center, Good News at Noon, Solicitor General Hall County, YMCA, AVITA, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Center Point Mentor Program, American Cancer Society, National Alliance for Mental Illness, Challenged Child and Friends, Boys and Girls Club of Hall County, and the Children Center for Hope and Healing, North Georgia Detention Center, the Salvation Army, Junior League of Gainesville Hall County, Legacy Link Area Agency on Aging, Quinlan Visual Arts Center, The Arts Council, WIC Program, Gainesville Action Ministries, United Hospice and the Disability Resource Center.
The Volunteer Fair is part and parcel of pedagogy of engagement that brings the community to the campus and takes the campus to the community. It is fashioned on a principle of reciprocity through which one receives by giving, and by giving get. I am personally humbled by the intelligence and resourcefulness of community leaders to whom I take my students for a rounded education and whom I welcome to my classroom to explore the critical nexus between theory and practice. The experiential learning of our students is imperative for their preparedness to function in a modern labor force and as emergent leaders in a diverse community and society. Importantly, our students should be encouraged to care and give back to the community which is providing them with subsidized education. The Volunteer Fair is the gateway to experiential learning that beckons our students to serve, to learn and to volunteer!