Student United Way, is working to recruit volunteer readers, tutors and mentors as part of their One Million Goal.
By Michele Danno Courtesy of United Way
One million may not seem like much to some folks with seven-figure salaries. It’s a paycheck, a game day audience or a Twitter following. But in the eyes of students working to recruit one million people to join a cause, that number means a lot.
It means a lot to all of the people who are teaming with United Way to cut the high school dropout rate in half by recruiting one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors. To help spread the word, United Way leveraged its esteemed partnership with America’s most popular major league sport by launching United Way TEAM NFL — a core group of college-educated, civic-minded NFL players from across the country committed to representing the initiative and motivating volunteers to sign up.
But as eager as they are to help, they cannot do it alone and no one knows how to reach out to students in need better than students themselves.
Cue Student United Way, a student-led initiative that aligns with the core values of its parent organization and is dedicated to sharing their mission of advancing the common good by empowering individuals and their communities. That empowerment targets America’s troubled youth, who are dropping out of school at unprecedented rates. Daunting statistics, such as one in four students today won’t graduate high school or a student drops out every 26 seconds, fuel the “One Million Goal” and drive Student United Way advocates to pay their educations forward.
That’s not to say it’s an easy feat. Juggling classes, sports, friends and work, most college kids rarely find time for themselves – let alone anybody else. But those involved in Student United Way, like 22-year-old Elizabeth Collins, willingly spare what little free time they have to help their communities.
Ironically, Collins calls her actions “selfish,” as she sees charity as more beneficial for her than those she volunteers for. As the president of Student United Way at Montana State University Billings, she described her satisfaction from volunteering as “addictive,” and has since made it her goal to get others hooked.
Her chapter of Student United Way is just one of 79 others, which are located in four different countries around the world. While chapters have participated in various independent initiatives since the group’s founding in 2008, this year they decided to rally behind one common goal set fourth by United Way — the One Million Goal.
Edwin Goutier, the manager of Student United Way, called these Student United Way participants his “worker bees,” saying they’re a great complement to the NFL players who are using their relationships and reach to help spread the word about the need and the opportunity to get involved.
Collins agreed, saying that the brunt of her group’s work is low-profile, but yields high success both in the lives of disadvantaged students and their volunteers.
To promote the cause for education, Collins’ Student United Way chapter is hosting everything from pen-pal programs to book drives, tutoring programs and other awareness-raising events that serve as a platform to recruit more volunteers.
Inching towards one million, these types of initiatives make the number that much more attainable. Goutier, who supports all Student United Ways, said the chapters are getting creative with how to spread the word, and every tactic is getting them closer to the ultimate goal.
“We know it’s going to take all of us working together to make it happen,” he said. “Students are an untapped resource, and this gives them the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of other students.”
Michele Danno is a United Way TEAM NFL intern and a student at the University of Iowa.