Students looking to learn some new workplace skills, gain leadership experience and impact the Springfield community might find an opportunity to do so through the Leaders in Community Service program at MSU.
Leaders in Community Service is an organization on campus which partners student members with non-profit organizations in the Springfield community, providing them with an hourly wage in return for their service.
Alecia Sturgeon, president of LCS, said her three years in the program have involved helping the community, making new friends and finding new experiences.
“You get to go impact somebody’s life,” Sturgeon said. “You get to go learn real-world skills. You get to go test out your career.”
Community service is a standard part of the work study program for universities, but according to Cheryl Combs, faculty advisor for the program, MSU’s focus on leadership is what makes LCS unique.
Combs said students aren’t merely assigned to Springfield nonprofits. A key part of the program is that students are placed in some sort of leadership position to participate in community service while also furthering their leadership skills and education.
Sturgeon said there are a number of other benefits for students working with LCS, perhaps the greatest being the sense of giving back to the Springfield community.
“You really get to interact with the community and see what they need,” Sturgeon said. “And you sometimes get to be that little glimmer of hope that they want to know is there.”
Megan Prather, graduate assistant for LCS, said the organization currently consists of 39 students. Of the 41 nonprofit agencies partnered with the organization, 28 of them have student volunteers for the school year.
At the beginning of the year, the students and nonprofits come together for the annual agency mixer. There, Sturgeon said, the nonprofits present and allow the students to decide which ones they would like to apply for. After an interview process, the nonprofits select the students they intend to hire.
Prather said there is a limit of two students per nonprofit, as LCS wants to ensure that the volunteer work is spread somewhat equally among the organization’s partners.
“There are a lot of really popular nonprofits, but we also want to give attention and help to those that are smaller and still growing,” Prather said.
Prather said the nonprofits partnered with LCS are sometimes near campus, downtown or further but are all within the Springfield community. They include Child Advocacy Center, Boys & Girls Club, Eden Village and many more.
Many students choose their nonprofit based on the sort of experience they want to gain in their major’s field, Combs said. However, some students find a seemingly unrelated position at a nonprofit can substantially change their idea of what they want to do with their major.
“We’ve had students that have actually stayed within the same educational major but maybe changed the direction they were going with that, and they’ve pursued a full time career within a nonprofit agency or a community,” Combs said.
Combs said she has seen many students positively changed by the end of their time working with their nonprofit. Prather also said student testimonies and evaluations from their agency supervisors indicate students grow from being in leadership positions.
“We want them to be the best leaders that they can be in this position and then on into their careers,” Prather said.
Information regarding eligibility and application for LCS can be found on the organization’s website.