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Why I started my own Student United Way

One normal day this past July, working away at my United Way Worldwide internship, I came up with a pretty bold idea.

I was in the middle of researching when I stumbled on a blog post written about a Student United Way leader’s achievements via United Way of Greater St. Louis. I learned that Student United Way is a student-led organization, where passionate leaders are committed to improving lives and strengthening communities.

Reading this article seemed an important message to me. At that moment, I had a great idea pop into my mind to found an official chapter of Student United Way at my university, East Tennessee State University (ETSU). Developing a business plan, writing a constitution, recruiting student leaders who feel the same passion for community development, and getting approvals from the university offices and the local United Way, it has not been the easiest. But I did it, in just a couple months.

Now that idea is a reality, and Student United Way of ETSU was founded. Here are the three biggest reasons why I started it.

  1. Giving is not only about money. You are never too young to do something meaningful. As college students, we might not be the most financially secure, but we can give of our time. It could be just half an hour that you devote to mentoring kids, helping older adults, cleaning up your community, donating used books and clothes to those in need, bagging groceries, and the list goes on. Three years ago, I volunteered for a global internship program by AIESEC (International Student Association in Economic and Commercial Sciences) in the small village-like city, Zabrze, Poland to help children learn to read and do their homework at the social school. I understood that being physically there to help could better influence someone’s life. Now, through my Student United Way, I can continue new ways to give back all the time.
  2. Empowering others empowers me. I believe that the role of leaders is not to get others to follow them, but to empower others to lead as well. In addition to making a difference in my local community, I started this organization with the belief that I can empower other students to do something meaningful on campus and in the community through practicing leadership and collaboration skills. Leading, cooperating with, and learning from a group of passionate and inspirational young people has constantly empowered me throughout this journey.
  3. It helps me grow as a person. There are so many life lessons I have learned each day through volunteering experiences, organizing events, starting something from scratch, cooperating with others, and communicating with different people from different backgrounds. I am representing not only United Way, but also our school, and constantly growing as a person as I challenge myself to lead by example.

If you also feel the same passion for making a difference in your own and someone else’s life, don’t wait! Start a Student United Way. It’s worth it. If you are interested, learn more about Student United Way or email student@unitedway.org. And if you go to ETSU and want to get involved, please contact unitedway@goldmail.etsu.edu.