Christi: Growing up participating in community service, I knew that with whatever occupation I ended up with, I wanted to be helping people in some way. Coming to Eastern and being a Finance major has shown me that I want to help people decide on things they may not be very knowledgeable on such as investments, retirement plans, inheritance, and everyday budgets. I have always had a heart for volunteering and when I saw how much the university was involved in volunteerism, I knew this was the school for me. When I was a child, my mom and I would participate in all sorts of projects in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. On a regular basis, I would spend all day putting together felt packets for Kids Around the World, a nonprofit organization that builds playgrounds all around the world. That was really where my love of volunteering evolved from. From there, I worked with the inner-city kids of Rockford by providing safe areas to play, study, and have fun. In the school year we would bring them to my church and play basketball. In the summer, my parents held a summer camp for them at our house where we spent a weekend in the country enjoying the weather and learning new games and activities. Coming to college wasn’t much different, except now I have my best friend and companion with me to do what we both love: volunteering!
Collin: As a young boy I always got a huge thrill out of helping people out, whether it be trying to cook dinner for my parents or helping run booths at fun fairs. Although I loved helping, I was never really able to do much until I got older. For my summer vacation going into my senior year I got the opportunity to go to Georgia to volunteer at a camp for underprivileged children. What started out as a fun trip to the South with my friends became one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. I had SO much fun seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces each day when we would play games with them or give them special treats, but the favorite part for me was getting told I’m like the big brother they had always wanted and letting them tell me what was bothering them and help them through it. I had no idea that junior high aged kids could be dealing with the problems I heard some cry to me about, and it was then that I realized I wanted to help kids in any way I could. After arriving at Eastern for my sophomore year of college, I knew I wanted to get involved with something to make a difference, but something I never expected to happen at my age happened: I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of twenty. I was forced to take a medical withdrawal from the university so I could go through what was supposed to be only nine weeks of chemotherapy. After many setbacks and battling the physical illnesses and depression due to losing all of my independence and being separated from my friends for over three months, I finally finished my last cycle of chemotherapy the day before I left to start my next semester here at Eastern. Because of the enormous amount of support I got from the staff here at Eastern, my friends, family, nurses/doctors, and my amazing girlfriend, I knew I had to give back in any way I could. It makes me so happy to be at a school that takes such a strong pride in volunteering and where the staff is so friendly.
Volunteering at Eastern Illinois University has been one of the best ways to get involved and most fun activities on campus. It has not only been pure joy to help others out and see them smile, but it has been exhilarating to do what we love right beside each other. In January, we volunteered together at the Chili Cook-off at Jefferson Elementary School where Collin acted as “security” and I painted the faces of little children. From our pasts of helping with inner-city kids to working at a summer camp in Georgia, we’ve been able to continue our love of volunteering at EIU. Our story at EIU is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to see what kind of volunteer opportunities are out there waiting for us.