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Spotlight on Walden // Nov 02, 2018

Meaningful Volunteerism

By Dr. Ward Ulmer, Interim President of Walden University

Dr. Ward Ulmer and Principal Kelly Carideo-Graves
Dr. Ward Ulmer and Principal Kelly Carideo-Graves

Fall is one of my favorite seasons for many reasons. While I make plans to watch college football, I also look forward to Walden’s annual Global Days of Service. This year, we celebrated 13 years of making a difference in communities around the world. I believe Global Days of Service is an essential part of who we are, and year after year it is one of the ways we bring Walden’s social change mission to life by focusing on the diverse needs of communities.

On October 19, members of the Walden community and I spent the day in Baltimore City at Beechfield Elementary/Middle School. This public school serves families with students in preK through 8th grade in a neighborhood that has suffered from increasing poverty and crime along with a lack of resources to support neighborhood children and to maintain its aging building.

For me, the morning of a Global Days of Service project is always full of excitement and anticipation. Can we help transform a community? Is there more we could be doing? The answer to both is always “yes.”

As I walked through the building, I saw members of the Walden family donating their time and energy to improve the lives of others. Walden’s team of students, graduates, faculty, and staff as well as friends and family rolled up their sleeves and tackled projects throughout the school. Together we created a teachers and parents lounge, transformed two rooms with Ravens and Orioles themes, brought much-needed color and life to various shared spaces, and much more.

I was proud and honored to be among a strong community of social change agents engaging in meaningful volunteerism. Our time at Beechfield was fun and provided a good team-building opportunity, and it was truly a special “pay it forward” event: The assistant principal of the school where we held our previous Global Days of Service project, Kelly Carideo-Graves, is now the principal at Beechfield and she asked us to help improve her new school for this year’s event. To me, that speaks volumes about the importance of establishing and building meaningful relationships with leaders in local communities.

Carideo-Graves had this to say about our Global Days of Service:

“I’m humbled to have you all here today. You have no idea what this means for our community. Our children at Beechfield deserve what you are about to give them today. They deserve a school they want to come to and to have a culture of learning. You are going to make that happen for my school and I thank you so much. I want everyone to walk away from today feeling good and wishing their kid were going to this school, because you truly are making an impact in the lives of our children.”

Meaningful volunteerism allows us to personally connect with a cause or a community. When you find meaning in your volunteer efforts, that can be the deciding factor between a one-and-done project or a commitment to offer continuous support. Hard work is certainly more enjoyable when you’re doing something you’re passionate about. For some, that’s pro bono work that impacts a large group, while for others, it may be working closely with one individual who needs help securing his or her next meal.

There are countless ways—big and small—to help those in need. Hopefully, if given the chance to volunteer, you take it—and make it meaningful.