Students helping those in need
There are 45 student organizations at Fox Valley Technical College, and all of them donate their skills in support of community efforts. “We’re developing people,” says Jim Beard, Horticulture instructor and student group advisor. “As a technical college our job is to train the workforce, but providing skills is only one part of it. Volunteering is another way all Fox Valley Tech students learn how to work with others, gain confidence, and communicate professionally.”
Developing organizations that meet student needs and their interests is part of the FVTC “Knowledge That Works” approach to education. “Through giving their time and skills, many students build relationships that produce donations from community groups, individuals, and businesses,” states Vicky Barke, director of Student Life. It’s truly a win/win arrangement for learning and for the betterment of the community.”
An excellent example of these efforts is the Reflection Garden at the ThedaCare Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, designed and built, in part, by students in FVTC’s Horticulture Club. In one day, club members and other Horticulture students joined about 80 community volunteers to complete a 75-by-276-foot garden featuring five patios, three raised plant beds, two walls with built-in benches, and more. “I call it a healing garden because it provides a nurturing environment for anyone who needs to take some time away from the hospital,” says Beard.
Students from the Horticulture program and club served as team leaders for most of the projects, and they continue to work on enhancing the garden for the Waupaca community. Beard says his students are already working on a fencing project for the garden to be completed this spring.
Student groups heal the community in other ways, too. Each year, volunteers from the FVTC Student Nurses Association (SNA) lend a hand at the Community First Fox Cities Marathon. “I take about eighteen to twenty students to the marathon,” says nursing instructor and SNA advisor Peggy Taylor. “Half of them work the medical pavilion by the finish line, and the other students staff the medical tent.”
Nursing students at the finish line help assess runners and determine whether anyone is in need of help. “We call them ‘catchers’ because they catch any problems by doing a quick triage,” explains Taylor. “They also help transport those in need to a rest area and assist doctors in whatever additional treatment procedures may be necessary.”
“All of our student organizations help their community in many ways throughout the year,” says Barke. “They work with our local food pantries, dental clinics, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and several other non-profit organizations and community projects.”
Volunteering is a true part of the FVTC student experience. “It’s hard to summarize how good it makes you feel to help,” Taylor says. “To understand it, you need to do it. Working with our student association is the best part of my job!”