Stepping into the role of GOAL Program leader, I thought the hardest challenge would be coordinating with the community and meeting all of the logistical needs of my program. But the most difficult part of isn’t anything like that: I’s getting students to step away from clubs, sports, studies, and friends to volunteer for just one hour a week.
I entered the GOAL program with a crafted “sales pitch,” or my plea to come volunteer. Common responses were, “I have class or work right before that,” “Put me on the email list but I can’t commit to anything yet,” and some who said, “That’s my free time.”
When I followed up with other times students could volunteer with my program or other similar programs, I received similar responses.
Volunteering is not a priority. I know that it’s difficult to find balance in life at Hillsdale. It’s hard to juggle classes, work, and a social life, and volunteering seems like it might push you over the edge. But we’re not constantly busy. I remember throughout the week the times when I scrolled through Facebook or Instagram mindlessly, wasting 10 minutes here and there. Well, that time adds up.
Giving back to the town seems like something that would come naturally to Hillsdale students. The classes we take teach us the origins of the freedoms we enjoy and the principles of small republican government, but we often ignore one of the key aspects that makes the republican form of government possible: community.
Community is absolutely essential, if we truly believe that these principles enable human flourishing. Alexander de Tocqueville praised America because of its ability to form these benevolent communities that took care of those who could not take care of themselves. This is something we have lost.
Today we see government programs taking the place of the community, but though we disagree with the idea of welfare programs, we don’t return to what made less government intervention possible: Communities that help those who can’t help themselves.
At their best, Hillsdale’s GOAL programs provide just that: a bridge to the community, establishing connections and teaching us to rely on each other. The GOAL programs help kids and adults with special needs, women in domestic violence situations, students struggling in school and at home, and many others in the Hillsdale community.
As a volunteer, I have seen firsthand how government welfare programs hurt the people they are supposed to help. Volunteering, however, provides an alternative while reinforcing what we learn in class and enriching our time in college.
Volunteering must be a priority for students. It shouldn’t be difficult to get students to volunteer one hour a week. If we truly believe in the principles of self-government we need to do more than just talk about those principles, we need to act on them. There are 22 different GOAL programs; I’m sure one of them is for you.
Kaitlin Makuski is a senior studying American Studies.