By Kyle Kern, Co-Editor in Chief
Growing up, I wanted to be a park ranger as a profession and a volunteer firefighter to give back to my community. My father had been a volunteer member at our local fire company since he was in his 20s and had been in every leadership position serving terms for the company, the social aspect and the Fireman’s Relief Association. I got to know the children of the other firefighters and social members because my father would make frequent stops there on the way back from a family outing or even just a Sunday drive.
Volunteering at their fundraiser events and other social gatherings has been instilled in my being,however I am not actually considered a member there currently. Although when I do stop by nowadays, there are rarely any children or young adults there. It is the same people I grew up with that keep coming back.
Growing up, you can almost see a slow motion of wrinkles appearing, limps forming, grey starting to show on their hair, and the technology barrier being created. These factors led me to me think about volunteering overall in our nation today.
I am aware, as many others are, of membership declining in youth organization like the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America, as well as the junior firefighter programs for volunteer fire companies among many other organizations. Studies have also shown that volunteerism from first-year college students through a couple years after graduation have a sharp decline in participation in volunteer activities.
In fire companies, 788,250 volunteers were recorded in 2014 compared to 808,200 in 1986 per the informational news Fire Rescue 1 website. The change is often attributed to our change in society. Where more individuals have households that commute to the city to work, where both parents work, the family has financial stability concerns and more commitment to other activities which might advance their career.
To me, this absolutely must have something to do with it. As a member of multiple organizations and professions that hold activities throughout the year, I understand this poke at a probable cause. Individuals, especially Susquehanna University students who seem to be involved in everything, have a lot of things that they are involved in.
In a Neon article by Andrew Dain he states, “What seems to be the most worrisome (and somewhat inconclusive) statistic is a sharp decrease in volunteering rate among highly educated Americans.”
According to The Non-profit Times, the rate of volunteering among people with a bachelor’s degree or higher plummeted from 42.8 percent in 2009 to 39.8 percent in 2013.” The researcher from the Center on Nonprofits & Philanthropy, Nathan Dietz, expressed that the loss of educated individuals volunteering could be a “canary in the coal mine” to future drops in volunteers.
“Education is the single best predictor of volunteering. It’s people with a job, and a good one,” Dietz said. However, in the age of institutions claiming “Service” as a pillar of their embodiment, how does one make sense of that? While we are immersed in service learning at school and on the job, we tend to fall out of contributing our time back to our many communities.
Do we do the service at college for the sense of fulfillment and to actually help someone? Or is it to add to our resume, add to our experience to become hired and further ourselves and use the service to others as a means to an end?