“Simon says ‘eat your breakfast.’”
While munching on waffles and orange slices Jan. 23, preschoolers at the Malone Center’s Early Achievers Academy excitedly chatted and played the classic directions game with their classroom visitors — four University of Nebraska–Lincoln students.
The students volunteered to spend the morning with children at the Malone Center to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during the campus community’s annual week of service, Jan. 22-26. In total, about 120 members of the campus community will volunteer approximately 2,600 total hours this week, benefitting nine nonprofits in Lincoln.
Following this year’s theme, “Compassionate Actions,” volunteers will also sort food at Food Bank of Lincoln, sort donations at both the Center for People and Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach, prepare materials for programs at Mourning Hope Grief Center and the Asian Community and Cultural Center, and assist with youth programs at Educare of Lincoln, among other roles.
Elsewhere at Malone, five undergraduate and graduate students also volunteered to help center staff continue packing boxes for the upcoming move to a temporary space while a new building is constructed over the next two years.
Tyrina Webster, director of operations for the Malone Center, was thankful to have nine volunteers on a cold, dreary morning. They made quick work of their packing assignments, and giggles filled the gymnasium as preschoolers played basketball, tag, or tried hula-hooping with the visitors.
“It’s amazing to have college students here,” said Tenisha Williams, an assistant teacher. “The kids love to talk to them, and we see a little more creativity and excitement when they’re here.”
Abigail Gillham, head teacher of the academy, said preschoolers benefit developmentally, too.
“The college students are modeling positive behaviors, and I think it helps the kids learn to be accepting and welcoming of new people in class and learn to communicate with new people in a safe environment,” Gillham said.
The volunteers were reminded of the importance of service, and staying connected to the communities where they live.
“I learned about NvolveU this year, and have been volunteering regularly,” said Ben Bentzinger, a senior criminal justice major. “I am happy the university offers opportunities like this. In the past, I’ve usually sorted food or donations. This is fun to hang out and interact with these kids.”
Francisca Lawson Tettevie, a doctoral student in human sciences, said she was enjoying the morning just as much as the preschoolers.
“I didn’t know when I signed up that we’d be getting to work with kids today,” she said. “We’re all having fun, and I think by us being here, they feel like people see them, they belong to a community and are valued.”
There is a small number of volunteer spots still open Jan. 24-26, and campus community members can sign up here. Additionally, local nonprofits will have informational booths in Nebraska Union each day, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where those interested in volunteering in the future can connect with and learn about the organizations.