For many months now, we have been urged to adopt a more mindful attitude toward the wellness and safety of our communities. However, it is far too easy to encase ourselves in our responsibilities and apprehensions about the future. This was especially true during the onset of the pandemic when my world, like that of many others, shrank to a room in which my computer and phone screens were the only links to the community outside. A crucial consequence from this isolated perspective is that we may feel incapable of developing leadership through community work.
Why should we strive toward becoming community leaders? Often, we are required to show how many hours we have volunteered to satisfy some competency in applications. Many find joy and purpose as compensation for the time they give towards some community organization. Others simply need an outlet to belong with others and better the world that so desperately needs a helping hand. Regardless of what motivates us, it is essential that we continue to adapt to our changing environment by seeking out places or efforts that need us. We may learn new skills, meet members of the community that we otherwise would not have had the opportunity to meet, and find out what type of people we would like to be in the future. This gives us the opportunity to grow into the examples that others can follow in enacting change. To become a community leader is to act on the responsibility of service that is imposed on us by our place as fellow community members.
Reflecting on my experiences now as a senior, there are a variety of locations at which I have volunteered. For instance, I have been drawn to helping in libraries for nearly a decade. More recently, food pantries and various other opportunities through RSOs on campus have given me the chance to engage in the community that lives both in and beyond our campus. It has been profoundly important to me that I can use my time to offer people in need, either directly or indirectly, a glimpse at humanity. This notion was threatened by the isolation brought on by the pandemic, a time where communities needed more help than ever.
With the encouragement of my Spanish in the Community class this semester, I have been able to continue developing and learning how to be a community leader even as my time at the university draws to a close. By volunteering in a bilingual elementary classroom through Vis-a-Vis, I will have gained insight and offered help toward the struggles associated with being an immigrant or a child of an immigrant in the Champaign-Urbana community. It is especially fulfilling to see that our actions can offer people who are perhaps disadvantaged or marginalized a sense of belonging and security to the community. Volunteering, especially with youth, can demonstrate our welcoming and service-oriented nature to those that benefit most from it. In the case of immigrants in our community, any act of kindness or support is indispensable, and the occasions to do so are abundant.
There will always be an opportunity to adopt a community perspective. We might have a specific skill or simply a keenness to help, and that is all we need to drive forward a healthier and unified community. We can use the diversity of our interests and backgrounds to find the space that suits us best. From what I have learned over the past few years, we should all endeavor to be a leader in our communities, at any level and at any time, so that we can leave a place better off than how we found it.