Monday, September 18, 2017

Make A Difference Day

We all have opportunities every day to change the world, whether we’re adopting a Highway to patrol for litter or volunteering at a local shelter to help the homeless. It’s amazing what just a small effort by an individual or group of individuals can do to change the world, or at least their local neighborhood. Make a difference Day was established to help encourage us to take one day a year to try to make a difference in the world.
History of Make a Difference Day
Originally created in 1992 by USA Weekend magazine, Make a Difference Day has seen a great deal of support from various organizations throughout the years, and most recently has been transferred over to USA Today as its primarily sponsor and organizer. USA Today provides a central location for people to gather their information and report what they’re doing locally to Make a Difference.

Since its creation Make a Difference Day has helped to encourage thousands of people across the nation to start making an actual difference in the world. Contributions to making the world a better place have ranged from gathering stuffed bears for firefighters to give to injured and frightened children, to organizing relief efforts for victims of natural catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. Overall Make a Difference Day has spurred people to make a difference in themselves, and the world.
How to Celebrate Make A Difference Day
The ways to celebrate Make a Difference Day are limited only by your imagination, and your willingness to contribute your time and efforts to changing the world. You can start celebrating by alerting people on social media to the upcoming opportunity to make a difference, and then its time to get truly ambitious.

Organize a food drive for your local Food Banks to help the hungry and the needy, approach businesses for donations to homeless and domestic violence shelters. You can even volunteer with your local blood bank or at a free clinic to help sign people in. There are hundreds of opportunities for those interested in changing the world to get involved, and dozens of organizations you contact to help you get involved.
Remember, making a difference doesn’t have to involve a grandiose gesture, it can be as simple as buying a coffee for a co-worker who’s looking down, or lunch for a homeless person just trying to get through the day. You can even donate your old clothes and blankets to shelters to help people get back on their feet and stay warm.
To celebrate this day of service, the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley will assist volunteers, from one person to a group of volunteers, in finding opportunities to get involved in service projects. This is a great way for students, businesses and employees, or even families to give back to the community through service!

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley works with over 160 nonprofits that offer numerous volunteer opportunities. Visit to learn about these opportunities.

For more information regarding Make A Difference Day opportunities, call (319) 272-2087, visit, or email.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The importance of youth engagement

What does youth engagement mean?
Youth engagement is the result when young people are involved in responsible, challenging actions to create positive social change. This means involving youth in planning and in making decisions that affect themselves and others. Youth engagement happens in youth-adult partnerships that are structured so that both groups contribute, teach, and learn from each other.

Why is youth engagement important?

Youth engagement is a central principle of youth development. According to the ecological perspective of human development, young people are agents of their own development. Youth are more than passive recipients of external influences; instead they are actively involved in shaping their development by interacting with the people and opportunities made available within their environments. Through youth engagement, communities can do a better job of creating the services, opportunities, and supports that young people need to develop in healthy ways. Youth engagement offers community leaders the expertise and partnership of young people, helping adults fully understand what it is like to grow up in a rapidly changing world. From a political point of view, youth engagement is important because young people deserve the right to represent their own interests. Youth civic engagement is also critically important to prepare young people to be active citizens in a democracy.

What are the benefits of youth engagement?

Youth engagement is a win-win proposition.
  • Young people benefit by gaining skills, knowledge, self-esteem, and connectedness.
  • Adults benefit by enhancing their own competencies, learning to better understand and value youth, and increasing their commitment and energy to their organizations.
  • Organizations benefit by improving their programs, gaining community recognition, and attracting funders.

  • Communities benefit by improving quality of life, coordinating youth services, and authentically embracing diversity by representing young people.

To learn more about youth engagement, contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley for more information at (319) 272-2087, email, or visit

Thanks to Youth Center of Excellence, Cornell University.

Monday, September 4, 2017

September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance

The September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance is the culmination of efforts originally launched in 2002 by the nonprofit 9/11 Day with wide support by the 9/11 community and leading national service organizations. This effort first established the inspiring tradition of engaging in charitable service on 9/11 as an annual and forward-looking tribute to the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks.
9/ released a video campaign featuring some of the 3,000 children who were born on September 11, 2001. They ask us to stop fostering hateful thoughts, and instead do at least one good deed on September 11 to honor the victims and responders on the 15th anniversary of the attack.  
In 2009, Congress designated September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance under bipartisan federal law, and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with helping to support this effort across the country. For the anniversary, CNCS is working with 9/11 Day and numerous other organizations to implement one of the largest days of charitable service in U.S. history.
Paying Tribute
On the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Americans will unite in service in the same remarkable way that so many came together following the attacks.
As in years past, we anticipate service and remembrance activities in all 50 states, at which there will be opportunities for hundreds of thousands of volunteers to paint and refurbish homes, run food drives, spruce up schools, reclaim neighborhoods, and support and honor veterans, soldiers, military families, and first responders. 
Snap it | Tag it | Post it | #911Day
Thousands of people all around the nation will commit to a day of service on Sunday, September 11. Be a part of it and share your experience! #911Day
The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley works with over 160 nonprofits that offer numerous volunteer opportunities. Visit to learn about these opportunities.

For more information regarding opportunities, call (319) 272-2087, visit, or email.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What is Service-Learning?

According to the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

Through service-learning, young people—from preschool to college students—use what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems. They not only learn the practical applications of their studies, they become actively contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform.

Service-learning can be applied in a wide variety of settings, including schools, universities, and community-based and faith-based organizations. It can involve a group of students, a classroom or an entire school. Students build character and become active participants as they work with others in their school and community to create service projects in areas such as education, public safety, and the environment.

Community members, students, and educators everywhere are discovering that service-learning offers all its participants a chance to take part in the active education of youth while simultaneously addressing the concerns, needs, and hopes of communities.


What is service-learning?
Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

What is the difference between service-learning and community service?
Community service participants volunteer for the primary or sole purpose of meeting the needs of others and bettering the community as a whole. Young people engaged in high quality service-learning meet the needs of their communities while increasing their academic achievement. Service-learning students also take part in structured time to investigate community needs, thoughtful planning of the service project, and guided reflection regarding the relationship between their service experience and their more traditional in-class learning. Overall, the most important feature of effective service-learning programs is that students engage equally with learning and service and reflect on their intersections.

Where does service-learning occur?
Service-learning programs are found in all subjects and grade levels and in a wide range of community-based organizations. The Cedar Valley benefited in a variety of ways from service learning programs. Some examples include: A preschool group beautified the ground of their center. A fifth grade class in Waterloo partnered with residents of a nursing home, interviewed and wrote life stories about the residents. A high school group in Cedar Falls created a web page designed to educate people about the issue of child abuse. 

Can service-learning occur in community-based settings?
Yes. The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley is actively involved in having students at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley participate in service learning projects as part of an after school program. Last year a youth group at a local church participated in a service learning program. Students at a local middle school conducted mini classes at the Waterloo Public Library for students in the after school programs at the Salvation Army and Boys and Girls Clubs. Two groups at North Star participated in a service learning program this summer. Service Learning can occur anywhere there are interested, committed people.

Is service-learning just for certain students?
No! Service-learning is for everyone. Service-learning is an effective teaching method for all students, including gifted and talented students, special education students, students with disabilities, at-risk youth, youth in inclusive classrooms, and students in alternative education.

How can I be sure that service-learning is a part of my child’s education?
Talk to teachers and administrators to find out whether service-learning is already taking place at your child’s school. If it’s not, consider presenting on service-learning to your school board or PTA.

How widespread is service-learning in the United States?
  • 24 percent of America's elementary and secondary schools have adopted service-learning programs.
  • 35 states have adopted some form of service-learning policy–either a mandatory, state-wide policy or one granting districts the freedom to create their own.
  • At least a quarter of all higher education institutions and more than half of all community colleges have adopted service-learning programs.

Contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley for more information at (319) 272-2087, email, or visit

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How to Highlight Volunteer Experience on Your Résumé

As we hear of volunteer fairs and anticipate college graduation it is important to look at including your volunteer experience in your résumé.

It’s important to use your volunteer efforts and experience to your best advantage. Volunteer experience can be a benefit to job seekers. This is especially true for students, recent graduates and other job seekers who lack professional experience in the desired field. Although volunteer service isn't considered equivalent to employment, it does help build your résumé. AmeriCorps says that volunteer service shows your ability to handle tough tasks and commitment to seeing things through. Thoughtful and creative presentation of volunteer experience on your résumé can bolster your qualifications, catching the eye of potential employers.

1. Gather details about your volunteer work, including the skills, values and experience you gained, as well as the association / organization name, location, contact information and project type.

2. Detail your volunteer work. Think about what you actually accomplished as a volunteer. List the specific activities and tasks you were responsible for and write a concise description for each activity. Use action verbs to begin each description.

3. Name the volunteer position you held if one wasn't provided for you by the organization. Simply listing "volunteer" isn't specific enough to stand out on a résumé. Use the title to describe your role. For example, if you helped plant and weed flowerbeds, "volunteer gardening assistant" is a descriptive title that stands out more than the generic "volunteer" title. Specify that you volunteered your time in the position description.

4. Show how your volunteer experience correlates with the desired position. This determines where on your résumé you'll need to include your volunteer work. Divide volunteer experience into two basic categories: volunteer work in a similar profession or position that mirrors the job you're seeking and volunteer work in a different field or position.

5. Organize volunteer information in order of relevancy along with other work experience items in your résumé. List more relevant items first. You may choose not to include all volunteer experience. Unless you want to demonstrate long-term commitment to an organization, don't include volunteer work that doesn't relate to the position you're seeking.

6. Format the sections of your résumé to include volunteer experience.

a. Highlight the strong relationship between your volunteer work and the targeted profession or position.

b. List volunteer work in a related profession or position with previous work experience. Name this section "Relevant Experience" instead of "Relevant Work Experience" to accurately represent the information included in the section. Even if the volunteer position isn't relevant to the position, promote that you've developed valuable skills and exposure as a volunteer.
c. If the volunteer work was in a different profession, but you developed skills relevant to the position, include a section titled "Community Involvement" or "Extracurricular Activities" if you are a student.

As you are planning your next move, remember that volunteer opportunities abound. If you find that you are lacking experience, contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley. The VCCV works with over 160 nonprofit agencies. For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact the VCCV at or (319) 272-2087.  

Thanks to Eileen Pfefferle for this material.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Benefits of Volunteerism in College

Many college freshmen enter college with some volunteer experience. Some needed to complete a set number of volunteer hours to graduate high school. Others sought out community service opportunities to make their college applications stand out. And some simply felt a desire to give back, adding volunteer service to their already hectic high school schedules. Once those college freshmen start their first year on campus, academic and social activities may take the place of those volunteer hours, and draw attention away from unpaid work in the community. Consider the case for volunteerism in college, as there may be some benefits to community service that haven’t yet been considered when configuring those schedules.
Check out the benefits of volunteerism in college below for even more reasons to volunteer time, because not only will the communities be made better, but students may be doing themselves a favor as well.
Boost Your Resume
Lots of high school students have volunteerism on their college resumes. Fewer college students are able to boast volunteer experience on the resumes they’ll be using to apply for jobs post-graduation. If students are able to fit the time in, even if it’s alongside a part-time, paying campus job, it could be worth their while to pursue a volunteer position. Employers like seeing that students volunteer their time, and are able to manage their time well enough to take on an unpaid position. Volunteerism also suggests that students are a team player, a quality many employers will look for in potential hires. Many companies also lead a number of annual volunteer projects for their staff, so if a student is active in community service and applying to work for such an organization they should play up that experience. Students who look interested in the company’s mission get a leg up on other applicants.
Volunteer experience may also boost financial aid packages. There are a great number of scholarships and grants out there that list community service as a prerequisite. If students dedicate some time each week to volunteer work, they could be giving their financial aid profile a boost as well. Once students start volunteering, they’ll see how easy it is to continue doing so, whether they’re fulfilling the requirements of a scholarship or looking to pad their resume.
Build a Network
Volunteer positions are a great way to meet people, especially if students volunteer in an area that could be of use to them post-graduation. Interested in education? Try volunteer tutoring. The program coordinators may be willing to support students when they’re ready to apply for paying jobs after graduation, or even direct students to job opportunities they may not have heard about otherwise. Interesting in nursing or health care? Perhaps there is a free clinic near campus that offers volunteer positions. The contacts students make in these kinds of positions will be invaluable, and could be a good source for them long after they find a job. Aside from a professional network, volunteerism can also help them build social networks. Students will not only be able to find like-minded people who share their interests, but people from different walks of life as them, as well.
Grow as a Person
Whether it’s a somewhat selfish reason to volunteer or not, volunteerism makes one feel good. The work students do will be rewarding and beneficial to sections of the population and areas of the community that need volunteers to thrive. In a volunteer situation, one person can make a real difference, and they’ll get that feeling once they start.
Volunteering can also help students build on their existing skill sets. If they’re relatively shy and want to become more outgoing, find a position that will build communication skills. If they’re not sure about a particular field of study or have interests in several potential majors, try volunteer positions related to those areas. Even if students do something completely different with their life, they’ll now be able to boast experience in a variety of different fields. If one is not a good organizer or has some trouble procrastinating when it comes to work and academics, try a volunteer opportunity that involves some responsibility. Students will be surprised how they’ll improve in those areas once they see that a person or organization is relying on them.
Call (319) 272-2087, email, or visit to get involved in volunteering.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Volunteering: How Helping Others Helps You

Volunteering can help you learn more about yourself and even put you on a path to your future career.
Giving back to your community is valuable in itself, but helping others also offers many benefits. For example, it can help you learn more about yourself and even put you on a path to your future career. Learn more about the reasons to volunteer below.

Gain Valuable Life Experiences and Skills

Whether you build houses for the homeless or mail flyers for a local politician, you can experience the real world through hands-on work. And you can explore your major or career interests at the same time.

For example, as a pre-med freshman, a volunteer spent his summer serving at a local health clinic. He picked a clinic in an area with a lot of Spanish speakers so he could practice his language skills while observing medical workers. He also found time to ask the doctors questions.

Meet Interesting People

Both the people you are helping and your fellow volunteers can give you new insights. No matter what groups of people you’re working with, you’ll find that they have information and ways of looking at the world that can broaden your horizons.

Get Academic Credit

Some high schools offer academic credit for volunteer work through service learning — a program that offers hands-on learning through service to the community. To find out if your school offers service learning, talk to your school counselor.

Show Colleges You’re Committed

Your volunteer work illustrates your interests and character. When you list your volunteer work on your college applications, you show admission officers the value you’ll bring to their campus community.

Make a Difference

It’s eye-opening to realize that doing even small things can have a big impact on others. Abby, a college sophomore, still remembers a visit she made to a senior home with a choir when she was in middle school. “An elderly man in a wheelchair looked up at me after the last strains of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and said in a gravelly voice, ‘You’ve made my day. This means so much.’” She recalls, “No one had ever thanked me in such a way for doing something so small, and a stranger no less!” Get Involved
Organizations everywhere need volunteers. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Call programs based in your community and ask if they need help.
  • Visit the VCCV website. It will list volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • Contact a local museum or other cultural institutions or get in touch with similar organizations that can point you in the right direction.
  • Ask libraries, religious organizations and community colleges if they sponsor any volunteer groups.
  • Check out the VCCV website to learn more about causes and to find volunteer opportunities near you.

    To get the most out of your experience, ask yourself these questions before you get involved with an organization:

·       What have I done in the past that I’ve enjoyed?
·       What do I want to do as a volunteer — and what would I rule out doing?
·       How much time can I commit?
·       What talents or skills can I offer?
·       What kinds of people do I want to work with?
·       What would I most like to learn by volunteering?

Call (319) 272-2087, email, or visit to get involved.