The past week has been very surreal. Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, and now New Jersey is left with massive destruction and a lot of weary residents. I was one of the luckiest people affected by the storm, because my power was only out for about 15 hours overnight. So, when it came time for students to become “crisis” leaders and volunteers, I felt committed to doing as much as I could to help those who were not so fortunate and was interested in seeing how other students would get involved. And boy, did they ever.
As part of Student Volunteer Council, our main efforts were directed towards finding volunteer opportunities and setting up donation drives for students. However, we quickly learned that what was actually necessary required the help of skilled workers, not necessarily the untrained students with good intentions. Now, we’ve focused more on collecting supplies for local shelters and schools that have immediate needs (see communityservice.rutgers.edu for more details!), but I’ve still tried to be as hands-on with service as possible, through our relief efforts here on campus.
Our Student Assembly (RUSA), and the Off Campus Students Association (OCSA) are spearheaded by a few of my friends, especially those in our own Leadership class: Pavel, Luis, Paul, and Ahmed. These two organizations acted as the go-to organizations for students to receive help following Hurricane Sandy, especially our off-campus population. They really came through for our students by providing them a source of shelter and heat, buses to help with groceries and for Election Day, giving out meals for those without power (over 600 people!), and more. On top of that, I saw some of these same students volunteering at the Recreation Centers where evacuees were being hosted from southern New Jersey.
I was able to stop by a few of these events, particularly the free meals and the Recreation Center, and it never failed to amaze me how dedicated some of our student leaders are. I saw them at every event, working together tirelessly, doing everything they could to make sure that Rutgers students were cared for. That commitment is something I will always keep in mind, but the best part was noticing the group dynamic at work and seeing how teamwork can create something so beneficial.
I was at an event the same time the idea of bussing students to the polls to vote was born. And while it was a spectacle, as well as being an amazing idea, I also remembered our reading about creativity and collaboration. In the Dynamics of Teamwork, Belsky explains, “History is made by passionate, creative people and organizations with the rare ability to lead other — and themselves,” which rings true for our student groups on campus. As someone deeply involved in volunteering, I was incredibly happy to see that our students leaders were so passionate about helping others. And furthermore, these two organizations were able to bring together dozens of student leaders to rally for the cause.
Working under Student Life has a plethora of benefits – ranging from networking with other student leaders, to working directly with advised experts from staff, to planning fun programs for students, but my favorite has to be collaborating with others to make a difference. Hurricane Sandy has undoubtedly made life harder for the Rutgers community, but I am proud to work with likeminded people to ensure that we can help these students, especially when they need it most.