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MSU Denver student places her end-of-day reflection on a light bulb after the 2018 Illuminate day of service. Photo by Alyson McClaran.

Volunteering: A bright idea

Students pitch in to help their communities – and in turn, themselves – during the 2018 Illuminate day of service.

February 1, 2018

By Cory Phare

3 tons. 6,000 pounds.

That’s about how much an African forest elephant weighs – and it’s also the amount of donated items that MSU Denver students moved at A Precious Child, a nonprofit dedicated to providing area youth with resources for a better life.

Thanks to their work, more than 500 area children will have access to clothing, school supplies and sporting equipment. And it was just one of five locations amplifying the impact during the recent Illuminate day of service and leadership development program.

“MSU Denver students have always been great,” said Nichole Karpinsky, director of volunteer services for A Precious Child.

“They’re hardworking, flexible, and up for whatever it takes to get the job of helping others done. We can’t wait to have them here again for another service opportunity.”

MSU Denver student Estevan Ruiz hauls a bag of donated items at A Precious Child. Photo by Alyson McClaran.

It’s no secret that MSU Denver students are tenacious and purpose-driven, taking part in events like the upcoming Roadrunners Give Back Day to serve the Denver-area communities in which they live.

That same spirit of philanthropy was on display for the Student Activities-led Illuminate, as more than 85 individuals turned out to volunteer their time – and sweat equity – to the greater good.

The day kicked off with an alumni panel, featuring José Guardiola, postsecondary specialist at Lester Arnold High School and Commerce City Council At-Large; Jeremy Priest, president at CEO of Knotty Tie; and Erica Ingalls, director of academic advising at Front Range Community College. Students had the chance to ask questions and learn about the panelists’ experiences with the value of the community work they were about to embark upon.

“Service is so important,” said Priest. “It really takes you out of yourself – that’s a good thing that helps you continue to grow.”

MSU Denver students Jackie Marquez (left) and Miriam Miranda (right) sort donated items at A Precious Child. Photo by Alyson McClaran.

That was a takeaway for Jackie Marquez, a political science freshman who was the site coordinator for the visit to A Precious Child.

“It’s incredibly humbling to see how many people are in need,” she said. “Volunteering inspires you, it helps you see the difference it makes in someone’s everyday life.”

She described her first semester as difficult, but credited faculty like Chicana/o Studies professor Adriana Nieto, Ph.D., for sparking her interest in community engagement. And she saw the experience as site leader as another positive step in her leadership journey

“Through the College Works program I had a pathway to enter and succeed in college, and volunteering has been amazing,” said Marquez. “As a DACA student, MSU Denver gave me hope. I feel safe and confident; thanks to my experiences I know I can overcome the challenges I face.”

MSU Denver student Alexsandra Ruiz-Ortiz hauls donated items at A Precious Child. Photo by Alyson McClaran.

In addition to A Precious Child, volunteers also went to several nonprofit organization volunteer sites: Project Angel HeartFood Bank of the RockiesMetro Caring and Project C.U.R.E.

Upon returning to campus at the end of the day, students had the opportunity to reflect upon their experiences. The group created paper lanterns, inscribed on one side with their one-word service goals for 2018 – and on the other, the strategies it will take to achieve them.

The lanterns will be on display in the Tivoli atrium, an ongoing reminder of the positive potential in collective efforts.

MSU Denver student Jasmine Huerta-Hernandez creates a reflection on her day of service, writing the goal of

For Jordan Dunbar, human services junior, it was insight into the real impact volunteering has for all involved. And as a future family counselor, it’s an insight into the power of community.

“I love to help because it does take a village to help individuals grow,” he said. “You can put yourself in the shoes of the kid who’s showing up on the first day of school, who has clothes and a backpack.

“I look forward to volunteering again soon – being part of a bigger solution like that just warms your heart.”