Between the academic demands of the rigorous Block Plan, collegiate sports, and down time with friends, there are few hours left in a day for Colorado College students. But many make room for volunteer commitments. During the 2009-10 school year, several CC athletes set aside their lacrosse sticks, soccer balls, and hockey jerseys, and donated their time and talent in diverse ways. Not only does such philanthropy build character and help nurture future career paths, but also students say the rewards of giving back can’t be beat.
Sophomore Grace Maloney, from Wilmette, Ill., learned about Court Appointed Special Advocates at the annual CC volunteer fair as a first-year student. The next year, she signed up.
As a facilitator, she oversees exchanges and visitations for children involved in the legal system and their parents, who have restraining orders, substance-abuse issues, or a history of domestic violence. Maloney helps ensure a safe environment and smooth interaction between the kids and their moms and dads.
“It gives me an opportunity to interact with kids, which I don’t get to do on campus. It exposes me to people with different backgrounds and opens up another world that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see,” she says. “And like lacrosse, it’s helping me develop leadership skills.”
Maloney, a psychology major, hopes to find employment in the nonprofit sector after she graduates: “I plan to spend my life working with underprivileged children and giving back to the community.”
Delivering hope and optimism to worried parents of newborn preemies is how Maggie DeFanti spent some of her final semester at CC.
“Other people’s happiness is how I achieve my happiness, and instilling hope with families is very rewarding,” she says.
The anthropology major from Kennebunk, Maine, earned a Certified Nursing Aide designation over Christmas break, then worked as a volunteer and intern in the neonatal ward of Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colo. She did rounds with a neonatal nurse practitioner and neonatologist, assisted with patient care, and spent time with the families.
DeFanti’s involvement undoubtedly will further her upcoming career; she wants to become a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. But it also brought personal gratification.
“I really enjoy helping people and hearing their stories and connecting the tapestries of their lives from the past to the present and beyond,” DeFanti says.
Sarah Wolff’s volunteer work made such an impression on her that she’s changed her mind about her profession. The math major wanted to become a researcher before she traveled to Nicaragua to work with girls and teens as a member of Soccer Without Borders. She spent spring break there last year and returned this year for two months. Now, she plans to become a college professor. She’s headed to Dartmouth this fall to work on a doctorate degree.
“My life ambition now is to teach. I realized I love small classroom study and am passionate about it. The experience made me a better person and changed the way I view making a difference. I always thought it had to be on a big scale but I realized a little personalized attention with one person can completely change your life,” she says.
Jessica Kautz’s volunteer efforts have taken her way beyond the classroom.
The biology major twice participated in Soccer Without Borders, an international program that brings the sport to underprivileged communities.
Influenced by an assistant CC soccer coach, Kautz traveled to Granada, Nicaragua, for a week last year. This year, she stayed in Central America for a month, from mid-February through mid-March.
Along with helping girls ages 4- to 21-years-old learn the ins and outs of soccer, Kautz assisted with nightly activities, including reading, writing, making crafts, and watching movies.
“I’ve never learned more in a short amount of time than I learned there,” she says.
Although frustrated at times, dealing with language and cultural barriers, and the lack of familiar conveniences such as electricity and having to take baths in a bucket, Kautz says the experience left a lasting impression.
“It’s something I’ll never forget. I definitely want to continue working in Third World countries, possibly in medicine.” She starts an internship in September in Honduras with Global HEAL, where she will shadow a pediatrician and assist with a public health project.
Horace Mann Middle School and Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department
CC football players were devastated when their sport – a 127-year school tradition – was eliminated last year due to budget cuts.
“It’s like canceling your major. It’s one of the reasons you choose the school you do,” says Craig Freund, a junior and psychology major.
In addition to helping with ongoing efforts to reinstate the NCAA Division III program, three players found another way to stay involved with the game they love.
Freund, along with David Mauro and Joseph Karwin, volunteered to coach 49 struggling Horace Mann Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders in the fall of the 2009-10 school year. That led to after-school academic tutoring by the trio in the winter. Springtime found the three, along with five more of their fellow teammates, coaching Parks and Rec football.
“The kids needed an infusion of intense energy, and that’s what we gave them,” Freund said. “We all had mentors we looked up to when we were kids. We wanted to be that for these kids. It was very rewarding to teach them something they can use throughout their life and see their smiles.”
Four years ago, CC hockey players befriended Tiffany Oldland, a very ill high school girl from Colorado Springs who became their No. 1 fan. As she cheered on her mentors at their May graduation, Oldland credited the unique relationship for helping her overcome her health problems and chart a course for success.
“They’ve been there for me, and I really appreciate it,” she said.
Oldland missed 90 percent of her freshman year and the first semester of her sophomore year at Coronado High School because she got sick and doctors had a hard time figuring out what was wrong. Oldland eventually had her gall bladder removed but developed severe stomach problems as a result of her extended illness.
She became discouraged, quit public high school, and enrolled in correspondence classes.
“The hockey guys inspired me to keep going. They’re very driven and focused, not only athletically but also academically. I thought, if they can do it, so can I,” Oldland said.
Although she had never been interested in hockey, Oldland fell in love with the sport after her mom dragged her to a CC game in November 2006 and she got to meet some of the team. She quickly became enamored with the sport and the CC players.
“Now, you can’t keep me away from games,” said Oldland.
Thirteen CC hockey players helped her celebrate her high school graduation in 2008.
And this year’s group of seniors have been friends with Oldland since she first discovered the joys of hockey.
The 20-year-old now is a sophomore studying sport management at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Her goal? To work for a National Hockey League team.