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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Unique Opportunity

A Unique Opportunity

You want me to do what? Volunteer? As in, unpaid?

Volunteering is the dreaded word that deters droves of college students from participating in community service and gaining valuable work experience that could lead them to their dream job. UMass Boston’s walls are plastered with fliers calling for students to volunteer their time to one cause or another. Non-profit organizations such as MassPIRG, Jumpstart, and BELL Foundation are better known to rely on volunteers, but Boston area businesses also try to reach out to students by offering unpaid internship positions.

The prestigious private sector jobs are heavily sought after by college graduates. If you are anyone who has looked in the classified ads lately for a job, than you know all to well that experience is a must. So how does a recent grad get the 1-2 years experience required to get that entry-level job? Many students worked unpaid as volunteers or interns. Here is some food for thought: a company like Goldman Sachs’ hires more than 70% of its interns for full-time jobs upon graduation. 70%! As an extra incentive you can earn up to 9 course credits per semester for unpaid work experience related to your major. So, why aren’t more UMass Boston students taking advantage of these volunteer opportunities?

UMass Boston has a Career Services Center located in the Campus Center where two full-time counselors work to find internships, volunteer work and full-time and part-time jobs for students. With a job bulletin printed every two weeks full of paid and unpaid job opportunities, they also help student job seekers prepare by holding resume workshops, mock interviews and other professionalism seminars.

Doan Nguyen, a work study student that works part-time at the Career Services Center, has observed that “most students don’t try for unpaid work experience; instead they would rather all try to get paid jobs.” Oftentimes student candidates will bypass unpaid positions to vie for more competitive and selective paid positions. Those who don’t get those jobs would prefer to walk away empty handed for the semester, than to volunteer their time.

Even on-campus volunteer involvement can lead to job connections. Eliza Wilson, who graduated last summer, was an active participant on-campus, to say the least. Everything from Student Senate to Sailing Club to the Skating Club, she was involved. “My experience at UMass Boston provided a great learning experience both in and out of the class room, where I was able to apply my coursework to real world situations,” said Wilson.

While volunteering on campus she was introduced to Marisa Coleman, Director of the non-profit organization SCI Dorchester. Wilson was taken by Coleman’s passion for community service and was drawn to their mission. Wilson pitched an idea to Coleman about putting together a guidebook that would benefit Dorchester residents and provide them with information on jobs, programs and services in the Dorchester area. After graduation Wilson became a full-time employee at SCI Dorchester, where she is now Assistant Director of Development. The Dorchester Guide Project that Wilson pitched and helped develop, will soon put out its first printed edition as the Dorchester Neighborhood Guide.

Non-profit organizations like SCI Dorchester make a tremendous effort to reach out to college students living, working, and playing in Dorchester. “Since UMass Boston is part of Dorchester we want UMass Boston students to be civically engaged in their community,” says Wilson. Just three years old, SCI Dorchester has achieved major ground, such as its Youth Council, where 15 Boston teens have completed more than 3,000 community service hours and have allotted $25,000 worth of grant money to Dorchester groups and individuals with civic objectives. Also a new Neighbor-2-Nieghbor Initiative is yet another product of SCI. It’s a program that UMass Boston’s SGA is taking a close look at participating in. With SCI Dorchester expanding its scope it will also be looking for individuals to volunteer their time. “We hope to bring on about five individuals who are interested in community service and civic involvement”, said Coleman. All those positions will be either unpaid or low-paid Americorp positions.

Even entry-level positions call for some field related work experience. And apparently a college degree wields more power when coupled with internship or volunteer experience. Since getting a good job is the reason why most of us are here to begin with, than maybe we should take a closer look at volunteer opportunities. College is more than just term papers and finals; it’s about building professional connections. Volunteer opportunities are career opportunities. No matter what your major is or career aspirations, interning and volunteering can lead to much more than just empty pockets, but to a paying job.