By: Mary-Ellen Davis, Staff Writer
The First Fridays program gives Towson University students the opportunities to volunteer both on and off campus.
The program is held on the first Friday of every month from September through May, and it gives students a way to volunteer at different organizations.
According to Lisa Hill, the coordinator of community service for Towson University, any student can participate in First Fridays, so they don’t need to be affiliated with a certain group or club to volunteer. Transportation is also provided to each of the service sites, so students do not have to worry about finding a way to get there.
“I often get emails asking if there are volunteer opportunities,” Hill said. “Especially students looking for, if they have limited transportation, they’re looking for an opportunity that is either on campus or close to campus, or just something that’s got transportation provided. These programs really fit that need for students who want to get involved but are looking for a program they can connect to.”
Carmen Robinson, a graduate assistant for Community Service, said the Department of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility holds First Fridays to provide students with a way to meet service goals.
“We wanted to provide students with an opportunity for additional ways to meet service goals and also to give back and make connections with the community,” Robinson said. “And also to connect with like student groups and give people an outlet to earn service hours…. It’s a good way to network. “
According to Hill, each First Friday is based around a similar structure where students start by meeting at a designated spot to get to know each other a bit.
“You’re going to spend a couple hours with these people, you want to at least know their names,” she said. “We talk about the organization where we’re going and the volunteer work that we’re going to be doing.”
After talking about the organization, the group heads to where they will be working to meet with a representative who will tell them more about the organization before they get started.
Once they complete their time there, students are given an opportunity to reflect on the work they did, what they learned and what they saw before heading back to Towson’s campus.
When deciding on a service site, Hill and Robinson look for a community or organization that has a social issue that students can base a discussion around. They also talk with the organization first, to make sure they are alright with having volunteers.
“Whenever we’re doing a First Friday or another volunteer event, we’re looking at what’s the need that the organization serves,” Hill said. “And also something that we like to keep in mind of [is that] our students are only going to be there for a couple hours, so you want to make sure that there’s something to contribute, that our students aren’t going to be causing harm when we’re going there.”
The program’s first event of the semester took place Oct. 6, at Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland, or TALMAR. TALMAR focuses on work-skills development, vocational training and horticultural therapy.
Students who volunteered for the trip helped organize and clean one of the barns at the facility, specifically judging the quality and organizing reemay, which is used to cover plants to keep them warm in colder temperatures, and helps prevent them from becoming sun scorched.
Freshman Ariana Quick said that she wanted to do First Fridays because it would be a good opportunity to get involved. She was also excited about the types of activities she would be doing while there.
“I saw on the website that I would be working on gardens and plants and stuff, and I’m a big fan of the earth and physical geography so I thought it would be cool,” Quick said.