The Office of Student Leadership and Involvement hosted a special guest speaker from Volunteer Memphis to discuss community service and leadership skills with students at the University of Memphis Nov. 7 at the University Center Memphis room.

Andrea Hill, the director of Volunteer Memphis, spoke about the importance of volunteer work to a packed crowd.

"You go and volunteer at those nonprofits so you can get that experience similar to an internship, but it could just be a general volunteer opportunity, just to test out the waters," Hill said.

While most students participate in community service as an academic requirement, volunteering can be an influential step in deciding career choices.

Hill also said that every volunteer's job is valuable for the progression of the project regardless of the size of it.

"It doesn't matter what that volunteer service is, as long as you're doing it, and you're connecting with the community," Hill said. "You're doing the things that you desire to do to help move your community forward."

Hill went into detail about the nonprofits working with Volunteer Memphis and the impact that volunteer work has made on the community. She also mentioned that Volunteer Memphis accumulated 5,000 hours of service from its 3,000 volunteers last year.

"The hours are calculated so that we know what the actual economic impact was to our community," Hill said.

Volunteer Memphis also holds National Days of Service, which is a ten-county campaign that raises charity for specific groups. Hill said the first one would be next year in January for the MLK Four Days of Service event.

Following the MLK Days of Service are Sept. 11 Remembrance Day, Make a Difference Day and Family Volunteer Day, which celebrates caregivers.

Hill said lectures like this one are common in her position, and she enjoys talking to people who are unsure about their path in life.

"We are all still learning and growing and figuring out who we are and where we want to be, and it takes years and some introspection to figure out what that point is," Hill said.

Hill said she wants young people to understand that everyone has the potential to be a leader and bring change to their communities.

"I think if we can hone in and talk about what is a leader, what level of leader you are right now and what level leader you want to be, I think we'll have more people that are connected to their community," Hill said.

Students in attendance said they were impressed with Hill's presentation. Faten Hawasha, a biology major, said she came to the lecture searching for advice on how to start her career.

"One big thing that always held me back is fear that I'll mess up," Hawasha said.

Hawasha said she admired Hill for following her passion and encouraging students to do the same.

Arnold Smith, a political science major, said he was interested in learning more about leadership because it encompasses people's everyday lives.

"I've been to several leadership workshops before, and I think this one empowered me the most," Smith said. "I think if I continue to be more open and attend events such as these, it will help me in terms of my future aspirations and passions."

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