IGNITE program sparks student volunteering

Freshmen are not the only newbies on campus. This year, the Service Learning Center has a new program called IGNITE. It is a program  that connects students with opportunities to serve. The program is run by Director of Service Learning Keith Kelley as well as student leaders. IGNITE commitment levels range from a spring break service trip to working a year-long commitment as hired staff.

Students choose areas to volunteer which fit their skills and interests.

Students interested in business can help in the small business support center.

“[The program] gives students opportunities to have dynamic, real-world experiences working on projects involving small businesses,” Kelley said.

Students wanting to mentor a child can serve through a program called RISE.

“RISE is the student development branch of IGNITE,” said senior and worker Andrew Pearce. “We target 15 or so schools in the Spokane area. We assemble teams of five students to meet once a week to walk alongside the kids.”

Students with a passion for cultural advocacy can volunteer with an upcoming program. IGNITE worker and senior Grady Kepler is working alongside junior Gifti Abbo, the other cultural enrichment advocate, on this project.

“We hope to create a program focusing on cultural identity and advocacy at Holmes Elementary,” Kepler said.

Many organizations in Spokane allow students to volunteer. One aspect that sets IGNITE apart from other volunteer services is the opportunity for leadership.

“IGNITE allows for a much more developed opportunity for leadership students to engage in high-level positions and situations that allow for them to get involved in the community and understand elements at play and to be a part of that effort,” Kelley said. “It transcends the basic volunteering model.”

One of the key components of IGNITE is the asset-based approach. As opposed to a charity model, the focus is working with strengths and resources already present in the community.

“We focus on leading from behind, not being the central and upfront role,” IGNITE worker and senior Ryan Knight said. “We support programs already in progress. We partner with West Central, learn from them, and do good things with them.”

This approach allows community members to take ownership and play a part in the change, instead of only being on the receiving end.

Those who serve end up benefiting as well. Students learn and grow.

“There’s so much growth and fulfillment that volunteers get to experience,” Kelley said. “It goes a long way to help us understand cultural difference and to be able to understand the world better and be more effective doctors, lawyers, whatever, later on in life.”

Kepler said students are already equipped to serve the community.

“Don’t wait until you have a degree to go out and make a difference,”  Kepler said.  “It’s really beneficial to do alongside your degree. Go serve.”

Students wishing to get involved can contact Kelley at kkelley@whitworth.edu.

Here are some possible areas where students can volunteer with IGNITE:

Sustainable living — Work in West Central to cultivate healthy, local food options and aid families in making their homes more energy efficient.

Small business — Volunteer in the small business support center.

Culture enrichment — Work with the RISE program to work with English language development.

Mentoring and tutoring kids — Work with kids through the RISE program.

Serving abroad — IGNITE offers spring break service trips that provides students with many options to serve abroad.

Madison Garner Staff Writer

Contact Madison Garner at mgarner16@my.whitworth.edu.