It’s National Volunteer Month!

Yes, April is National Volunteer Month. 

A month to recognize everyone who dedicates their time to better the community. 

We’re four months into 2012, and for those of you who haven’t volunteered this year there’s still time. Volunteering can be difficult to balance with coursework and other commitments during the semester, but the summer can be a great time to volunteer.

There’s no course-related stress and plenty of free time—time that can be devoted to an hour or two of volunteering. 

Summer is fast approaching, so I recommend finding a cause that your interested in to devote a day of every week for volunteering. It can be a little league team, Habitat for Humanity or your church. 

If you aren’t sure where to look for volunteer opportunities in your community or which organizations need help, you can visit http://www.serve.gov or http://www.volunteermatch.org. These are great sites to find volunteer opportunities in different U.S. cities.

More than 64 million people volunteered at least once between September 2010 and September 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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Did you know about the Tim Tebow Foundation?

No worries, I learned about it last week in class. As a Gator—who are required to be Tebow fanatics—shame on me for not knowing about this sooner. 

I’ll assume I can receive a bypass being that I’m a first-year student. But anywho, yes, Tebow has a not-for-profit foundation.

The organization hosted its 2nd Annual Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic on April 14at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

At the charity event a woman donated to the foundation $100,000 to spend a day with Tebow, The St. Augustine Record reported. 

The Tim Tebow Foundation was created in January 2010 upon Tebow’s graduation from the University of Florida.

"The Foundation utilizes the public platform that God has blessed Tim Tebow with to inspire and make a difference in peoples lives throughout the world," according to Tim Tebow foundation website.

The foundation works in Gainesville, Fla., Atlanta, Ga., Jacksonville, Fla., Washington D.C.,  New Jersey, New York, Haiti, Philippines and Bangladesh. 

The foundation has four primary outreach program initiatives:  

Follow Tim Tebow Foundation on Twitter or add on Facebook
Visit the website http://www.timtebowfoundation.org

Caption: Visit the Team Tebow foundation website for more information. 


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Third grader says college is too much

Today while volunteering a third grader told me she didn’t want to go to college.

I was shocked by her comment.

I tried not to show this emotion through my facial expression, but instead asked her ‘Why don’t you want to go to college?’ 

She dropped her head on her right arm, on the table, with frustration and replied, “It’s too much.” 

She continued to explain that college was to much work for her.

I asked her how she expected to pay for food or pay for her house if she didn’t go to college. 

She replied that she would find a husband that would work and she would stay at home. Then she quickly changed her response and said she would work at Applebee’s.

I was speechless. I didn’t know how to respond. 

I told her college is important and despite the work it’s a fun experience. 

When I was in third grade, college was always a plan. I knew I was going to college despite not knowing what career path I would take. 

I thought all third graders hoped to go to college.

My brother is in the first grade. Every time I go back home his answer to ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ is always different. A doctor, a construction worker, a firefighter or a lawyer—his current answer. 

It worries me to know a bright little girl doesn’t want to go to college because she believes it’s too much work for her or she wouldn’t be able handle it.

Next week, I’ll spend a little more time with the third grader to understand better why she doesn’t want to go to college. And after thinking about it on my way home next time I’ll be better prepared for that conversation. 


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Here are helpful mentoring tips

My last two post were focused on mentoring, so I thought it would be great to provide you with some helpful mentoring tips.

Every two weeks or so, ASG emails me a mentoring tips newsletter. Truthfully, I don’t read every newsletter, but the few I have read provided some helpful tips on how to make mentoring easier for the mentor and mentee(s). 

Mentoring is an enriching experience but it can also be difficult, especially in the beginning. 

I found these great tips at Youthfriends.org.

Tips:

What You Can Accomplish:

The Center for Leadership and Service has more links for mentoring tips: http://bit.ly/HyIRaC


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I enjoy After School Gators, you can too

Per my ‘Welcome’ post, you may know I volunteer once a week for two hours at an elementary school in Gainesville, Fla., through the After School Gators program. 

I enjoy volunteering every Wednesday.

Last semester I helped third- and fifth graders with their homework. It was fun—the kids are hilarious. 

But this semester I was assigned to help the theatre teacher—a senior at UF—teach costume design and acting techniques. The kids are super enthusiastic when they’re doing the activities. 

They make sure that I’m participating in the theatre activities with them kids. They’d ask, “Ms. Audrey are you going to do the warm up with us?” And when I didn’t answer quickly they’d pull me by the arm toward the middle of the theatre.

Although there are days when they don’t behave, they’re still sweethearts. 

After School Gators is one of 17 programs within the Center of Leadership and Service at the University of Florida. 

ASG works with five at-risk Gainesville elementary schools and each school receives volunteers everyday after school. 

“Through consistent weekly support, After School Gators provides a positive influence to local at-risk elementary school students. We seek to build relationships that encourage academic improvement and personal growth,” according to the Center of Leadership and Service’s website. 

Volunteers assist students, a group of about 25 to 50, during after school programs with homework and organizing fun activities like sports, and arts and crafts. Volunteers are required to give at least two hours per week, Monday through Friday between 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. or Wednesday between 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

Applications for ASG are available during the beginning of  the fall- and spring term. 

To learn how to get involved with the CLS: http://leadershipandservice.ufl.edu

Join ASG on Facebook


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Cutest Big Brothers and Big Sisters match story

I always love finding great stories accidentally. 

Today I decided to search for the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters’ website. I’ve heard about the organization, but I’ve been curious to know what the organization does. So I looked to Google for an answer—like most people do when they have a question.

Those of you who don’t know, for more than 100 years BBBS’s mission has been “to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever,” according to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America website. 

There are chapters in all 50 U.S. states and 12 countries around the world.    

The Big Brothers movement began in 1904 by a New York City court clerk Ernest Coulter. Later in 1924, plans began for a national Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization. 

Caption: You can find a local chapter in your area at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s website. 

So, after learning about BBBS’s history I found the website for the local chapter in Gainesville, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Florida. 

While searching through the site I came across a story about a former Big Brother mentor Patrick and his little brother Andrew. The two were featured on a Match Spotlight column on the website. Patrick was matched with Andrew about four years ago through the program. After Patrick moved to go to graduate school their match was technically closed. But when Patrick got married in October 2011 he chose Andrew to be one of his groomsmen. 

Is that the cutest? Mentoring can create a great bond between a mentor and mentee. Patrick and Andrew’s story is a great example of that. 

To read more of Patrick and Andrew’s story: http://bit.ly/Hpq93S 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: http://bit.ly/9Y0IZj 

(Source: bbbsmidflorida.org)


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UF alumnus and doctor discusses homelessness in America

Dr. Pedro

Caption: Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr., a UF alumnus and Miami physician, speaks at the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center. 

"Imagine being a homeless child."

Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr. begins to read an excerpt from his autobiography, Waking Up in America: How One Doctor Brings Hope to Those Who Need it Most, about his encounter with a six-year-old homeless boy. 

Greer walked into the clinic during lunchtime with a sandwich. In the pediatric area he met the six year old, his mother and two brothers—the mother told him they came from the Salvation Army.

The little boy caught Greer’s eye and he offered him his lunch. The little boy took two bites of the sandwich and put it in his pocket.

Greer asked him why did he do that. The little boy replied, it (the rest of the sandwich) is for my brothers.  

"He taught me how important it is to take care of the people around me," Greer said. 

Greer visited UF on March 13 to talk about medical care and the homeless.

He provides care to the underfunded and uninsured. He is a physician at Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove, Fla., and the assistant dean of academic affairs at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. 

In our society it has become acceptable to turn away a patient because he/she can’t pay for medical care, Greer said. 

"What happened to our ethics? When did this become okay?"

                

Caption: Dr. Pero Jose Greer Jr., left, shakes hands with John Anderson, right, as Senator Bob Graham stands nearby, middle. After his speech, Greer walked around the room to chat with attendees and answer their questions. 

One in 45 children—totaling more than 1.6 million— is homeless, according to a 2011 report from the National Center on Family Homelessness.

“It’s not about health reform. It’s about social reform,” Greer said. 

He said the “two most important dependence” are teachers and mothers. The future of our society depends on them, yet we don’t give them any financial backing. 

He encouraged the audience to fight for those who don’t have the voice for themselves.

“If we continue to do that we will be the greatest country in the world.”

To find out more about Dr. Greer and his work: http://bit.ly/GD1qar

For info on homelessness in America visit: http://bit.ly/GCbnEl    

To learn about the Campaign to End Child Homelessness visit: http://bit.ly/qQefp0 


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"Move that bus!"

The students and faculty at Chester Shell Elementary School in Hawthorne, Fla., shouts at the yellow school bus concealing the school’s new renovation, by Project Makeover volunteers, from them. 

"It’s not that often that college students—we really get to—give back that tangibly," Megan Iseman, University of Florida senior, said, in the video uploaded on the University of Florida’s You Tube account.

More than $9,000 was raised. On Feb. 24 to 26, 1,055 volunteers from UF helped give Chester Shell Elementary School a makeover complete with murals, fitness trails, and microscopes and work stations in a new science lab, according to UF’s You Tube account.

Project Makeover is a student-run organization at UF. 

This is the organization’s fifth school project. Every year a new school is selected for a renovation. 

Project Makeover was created in 2008 by a University of Florida senior Joshua Jackson to “create a more dynamic learning environment for elementary school students in the Gainesville area,” according to the UF Project Makeover website

"It is truly our wish to bring the University of Florida campus and the local Gainesville community together in a common goal to change the face of public education," according to the website. 

I desperately wanted to take part in Project Makeover this past weekend, but all the spots were filled by the time I signed up. After watching this video, I’ll make sure next year I don’t miss out on this opportunity again. 

I love hearing about UF students making a difference in the community. Don’t you?


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Peace Corps director speaks at UF Bob Graham Center

                 

The oldest Peace Corps volunteer is 81 years old and currently assigned in Botswana.

Director of Peace Corps Aaron Williams visited the University of Florida on Feb. 21 to speak at the Bob Graham Center about the prestigious opportunity the Peace Corps offers its volunteers. 

"We welcome all ages if you want to serve," Williams said.

When I learned that the Peace Corps director was speaking Tuesday, I thought this was a great opportunity not only for a blog post, but this was a chance to learn more information about the Peace Corps. Since fall semester I’ve contemplated whether I should apply for the Peace Corps after graduation.

"(The Peace Corps is a) 27-month engagement that last a lifetime," Williams said.

Two years away from my family and friends is a big transition, but I continue to reassure myself that I’ll have the rest of my life to enter the workforce. This is an amazing opportunity to live in new country, learn a new language and learn about a new culture while volunteering.

Williams served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Monte Plata, Dominican Republic, from 1967 to 1969, after graduating college. He met his wife while volunteering. 

Williams grew up in Chicago, and many of his family and friends questioned his decision to apply. His mother’s support gave him the encouragement to take the plunge. 

"Think of the Peace Corps as a way to gain leadership skills that will make you a global citizen," Williams said. 


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Welcome!

Hi everyone! 

Welcome to my new blog.

I’ve had three blogs (on WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger) prior to this one. This is my first professional blog with story ideas and photos I created. 

I chose low-income communities in Gainesville as my blog topic because in the future I want to write about poverty and low-income communities in America, and later branch out into international poverty. I feel that poverty isn’t written about enough in the media unless it includes a scandal (Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles) or crime.

I volunteer at an at-risk elementary school in Gainesville, and many of the students are from low-income families. Some UF students aren’t aware of poverty issues in Gainesville. I didn’t know there are low-income communities east of campus until I did some research for my blog. And I assume few students travel to that area because the majority of businesses are centralized around campus.  

I want this blog to bring awareness to UF students about issues that are affecting low-income communities and organizations doing charity work there.

About: Life beyond the Gator Nation is a blog about organizations working in low-income communities in Gainesville, Fla., surrounding the University of Florida.

Read. Share. Follow. Enjoy. 


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