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Nicole Flohr '20 began volunteering during her middle school years because of the requirement for the National Honor Junior Society. When she moved from upstate New York to Annville to attend Lebanon Valley College, she continued finding volunteer opportunities to better her new community and herself.
Nicole feels volunteering through LVC helped her get acclimated to her new community, especially since she was hours from home. The different projects and organizations with which she has volunteered have helped create new friendships and fostered existing relationships throughout her years at LVC.
Locally, Nicole volunteered with the Special Olympics swimming program alongside her LVC swimming teammates. The group assists with swim practice during the spring and helps to facilitate the Special Olympics swim finals at LVC.
Nicole also volunteers with the College’s Students Helping Seniors group. She participated in activities at various local nursing homes during events such as bingo and crafts with the seniors, or just to chat and visit with the residents.
Nicole said volunteering locally is a beneficial way to interact with a portion of the local community that you normally would not. She believes there is something special about volunteering locally because you can have a direct impact on the community in which you live.
Nicole has also volunteered abroad, which she enjoys immensely. She finds it enlightening to volunteer in different countries and cultures, which may stem from her global studies and politics double major and her Spanish minor. She traveled to the Dominican Republic through an LVC service trip and volunteered in Italy during her study abroad semester.
The service trip to the Dominican Republic through LVC focused mainly on education, with an organization called Outreach 360, which operates an after-school program that specializes in teaching students English and assisting them with improving their Spanish. Graduates of this program have been able to attend college due to the support of the program, which consequently helps to create a better, more sustainable community. Outreach 360 also takes groups to local schools to teach English to students during their school days.
One memory Nicole recalls especially fondly is about a little boy who was having trouble reading and comprehending Spanish. Through working with him one-on-one, Nicole was able to see him progress in his abilities and skills throughout the week. She treasured seeing his confidence grow, knowing that she made a difference in his life.
The language difference was not excessively challenging for Nicole since her minor is Spanish, but she still valued one of the principles that Outreach 360 encompasses: communicate through love. This helped during her Italian study abroad experience when she was volunteering because she does not have any Italian language background.
In Italy, the study abroad program through the Umbra Institute, embodies a focus on community service. Some of Nicole’s classes even incorporated service components. For example, her photography class assisted a business with marketing materials. She also volunteered alongside elderly Italian women who made dolls for the UNICEF Pigotta project.
One volunteer opportunity that Nicole especially enjoyed was volunteering in an Italian classroom. The students were around 12 to 13 years old and very accepting about having her in their school. Nicole gained a better understanding of Italy and the Italian culture through meeting these students. She reminisced about when she first began in the school and the teacher stopped in the middle of the lesson to point out how different Nicole’s American accent is compared to a British accent, which is what they were using to learn their English language skills. She also recalled how different her American-English semantics were compared to the British-English semantics the students were learning.
Nicole appreciates her experiences abroad and hopes to return to both countries someday to volunteer again. As Nicole completes her time at LVC, she is looking forward to a more stable volunteer commitment. She appreciates the diverse service opportunities LVC offers that made it possible for her to volunteer despite her hectic schedule.
The skills that Nicole has gained through volunteering, such as communication, leadership, and problem-solving, will be valuable in her future. She sees the personal growth she has experienced through volunteering and recommends that every student find some type of service project about which they are passionate. She believes that serving others will not only help students to connect with the campus and community, but it will also be life-changing for the students as well.
--- Mary Beard ’20, for English 430, Feature Writing