Volunteer with the college’s Service Learning Academy

Katie Paape, News Editor

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The Service Learning Academy is a unique opportunity for Madison College Students to volunteer and give back to the community in a fun and active way. It is an excellent way to learn new skills, get new experiences, and make new friends, as well as being a rewarding experience in and of itself.

What it is: students choose an organization to volunteer with for two hours every week until the end of April.

There are many available opportunities to volunteer in the Madison area, such as the Child and Family Center. “It’s really fun and rewarding to work with little kids,” says Brianna Stapleton-Welch, program advisor for the Volunteer Center at Madison College, “It’s close and easy, you can just walk there if you take classes at Truax.”

East Madison Community Center is also a common choice for students, and has partnered with the Service Learning Academy since its inception. Conveniently, it’s located just across the street from Truax.

The Henry Vilas Zoo is another popular destination for volunteering. Volunteers interact with zoo visitors, assist them in finding different sites, and help people learn about conservation.

These are just three of the many organizations to choose from when participating in the Service Learning Academy. A few other sites include: Christ Solid Rock Church Homework Club, Northport Community Learning Center, Packer Community Learning Center, Second Harvest Food Bank and the Watertown Humane Society.

Regional campuses are also getting involved in the program. There are now organizations in Watertown and Johnson Creek.

Because full-time students have varying class schedules and little free time, most of the organizations are flexible when coordinating with volunteers. Each site has different hours for when they most need volunteers. “There’s a lot of flexibility, but typically, it’s going to be at the same day and time every week,” says Stapleton-Welch, “so the organizations know when to expect you.”

Another feature of the Service Learning Academy is that it requires no prior experience, and volunteers will learn on-site. “We have at least 15 partner organizations this semester, and each one handles training differently,” notes Stapleton-Welch. “Some sites do an orientation for students at the site because they do want you to have a little bit more knowledge about what they do as an organization, or to help you know what to do in a situation if a student needs additional assistance beyond the role of a tutor.”

A Hospice organization, for example, will require volunteers to receive more training because of the sensitive nature of the work, but other organizations require less volunteer preparation. 

“The important thing for students to know is that you don’t need any particular skills, you just need to be comfortable,” Stapleton-Welch said.. Whether you want to work with young or old, alone or together, behind the scenes or directly with patrons, there are options for everyone.

Additionally, Stapleton-Welch noted that the Service Learning Academy helps enhance leadership and other communication skills by building relationships and working with clients or organizations. These experiences can help students decide what roles they want to continue in the future, and they can provide direction for students as they discover which roles they enjoy and would like to pursue in their career.

Stapleton-Welch believes that the most valuable takeaway from the Student Learning Academy is that students form meaningful relationships with the people they’re volunteering with, whether that be a child they are tutoring, or a senior citizen they’re working with one-on-one. “People are really excited about the connections they make with other people,” states Stapleton-Welch. “That’s one of the best parts for the volunteers.”

The deadline to apply with the Service Learning Academy was January 31, but the program is open every semester, and you can always go to the Volunteer Center to look for opportunities. If time is an issue and you can’t commit to the semester-long program, there are also standalone events for volunteering opportunities.

Volunteering is a great way to acquire experience and skills you wouldn’t otherwise get in a school or work setting. The Service Learning Academy will help you build connections with other students, and relationships with people from all walks of life.

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