The Cougar Volunteer Spirit is Alive and Well in Charleston

This blog is a project by public relations students at the College of Charleston. Since its inception in 2004, the Cougar Volunteer Spirit has showcased dozens of students who give of their time, effort and hearts to helping those in need. They don't do it for recognition like this, but their stories need to be shared because of their admirable qualities of character and caring. "Be the change you want to see in the world," Mahatma Ghandi said. That's the Cougar Volunteer Spirit that roars through these pages. Click on the side photos to see the articles. See photos of the students who wrote the pieces at the end. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

LAURA REECE- Dance Marathon

Finding the Right Beat
By Sam Maloni

Laura Reece volunteering at MUSC Children's Hospital

After being introduced to Laura Reece three years ago, I have not only had the pleasure of getting to know her, but also the pleasure of working with her, and in time have come to respect and admire her.

After coming to College of Charleston to get involved with the for-profit art world, Reece never imagined that through Dance Marathon and the arts management program that she would find a love non-profit fundraising.

Reece has made a difference in countless lives and I have no doubt that after graduation she will continue to volunteer countless hours and make a difference in many people’s lives.

About Laura Reece:

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Major: Arts management, art history

Graduation: May 2011

Volunteer activities: I have been involved with Dance Marathon all four years of college and in the past I have also volun

teered with Charleston Miracle League and various arts organizations in Charleston.

What do you enjoy most about community service? What I enjoy most about community service is the feeling I get from helping people. I love getting to know the people I am working with and especially getting to know the people who I am helping. It is a wonderful feeling to know how much people appreciate your help and to know that you have made someone’s day a little brighter.

Most memorable volunteer experience: My most memorable volunteer experience is from sophomore year, which was my first year on the executive board for Dance Marathon. I got to experience all the work that goes into planning the event and also had the opportunity to visit MUSC Children’s Hospital and meet many of the children and families who directly benefit from Dance Marathon. I have never been as emotional as I was after that year’s Dance Marathon.

What are you most proud of contributing to your organization? I am most proud of contributing my love and enthusiasm for Dance Marathon and the importance of giving back to the community and MUSC Children’s Hospital.

How have you personally benefited from volunteering? Aside from being able to build my resume, the greatest benefit from volunteering is getting that “warm fuzzy feeling” that is so often talked about but rarely achieved.

At the end of the day after volunteering I can go to bed feeling like I have made a difference in someone’s life even if it is as simple as making someone smile.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? I would tell someone thinking about volunteering to choose an organization that they think they would get the most out of or enjoy the most. Once they choose an organization, make sure that they get to know the people they are working with and if they are able, get to know the people they are helping. It is always inspiring to know who you are helping and to be able to share a passion for volunteering with others.

How do you think your friends and family would describe you? My friends and family would describe me as warm-hearted creative, and passionate. I would like to believe that if they were asked this question that they would also say I am funny, but it is entirely possible that they just laugh at my jokes to humor me.

What are your plans after graduation? I plan to get a job in development for the arts, and be lucky enough to come home from work every day with a smile on my face.

More information about Dance Marathon can be found at

About the writer: Sam Maloni is a senior communication major and dance minor at the College of Charleston.

Friday, April 1, 2011

LEVI VONK- Hola Amigos Program

Helping Establish Literacy One Person at a Time
By Jessica Raymond
Levi Vonk pictured during his summer internship
The rigorous class schedule of a College of Charleston Honor’s College student requires dedication, diligence, and hard work. With a schedule this strenuous, it is impossible to think that there is time for little else. However, Levi Vonk, currently a sophomore, has found the necessary balance to complete his school work and give back tremendously to the Charleston community.
Volunteer Activities: During the summer of 2010, Vonk worked with the Student Workers Action with Farmworkers in North Carolina, a nonprofit organization that “promotes the fair treatment of farmworkers within the southeast.” He was partnered with the Migrant Education Program for the Buncombe County School System, where he received the names and addresses of Hispanic migrant families that have moved into the area, allowing him to go to their houses to tutor their children during the summer, as well as assist the parents in learning basic English skills or English phrases that would assist them in American life.
About Levi Vonk..
Hometown: Kingsland, Ga.
Major: English
Expected Graduation Date: May 2013
Why did you choose to become involved in this particular project?
I believed that everyone deserved a fair and equal opportunity to learn how to read and speak English, especially if they truly want to achieve “the American Dream.” Children especially have a tough time as it is moving to a new country and by learning how to read English, I think that makes the transition much easier.
Pick two words to describe you:
I’d probably have to go with hardworking and friendly.
What were your experiences with the Student Workers Action with Farmworkers Program?
I had the chance to meet so many hardworking charismatic people. These people want so badly to succeed in the United States and they work so hard every day of their lives to make that happen. To see what these people much endure on a daily basis is truly an eye opening experience.
Explain the beginnings of the Hola Amigos program
It was tough at first, because I had to find the necessary support to get the class started. Once people saw what I was trying to do, they jumped right on board. The students that attend the classes were so excited and eager to learn English.
What are your recommendations for someone trying to start a program as you did?
Don’t give up! Also, you have to stay committed to what you want to achieve. If you have a specific goal in mind, stick with it until it happens. It may seem hard to start a program or support a cause, but as long as you work hard, you’ll be happy with the outcome.
What are your plans following graduation?
I am honestly not too sure yet. I still have a couple of years, but as of right now? I will continue with the Hola program and possibly plan on attending graduate school and pursuing a degree in law.
For more information on the Hola Amigos Program, please contact Levi Vonk at For information on the Student Workers Action with Farmworkers Program, visit or email questions to

Monday, March 28, 2011


"Y" She Helps
By Peter Thompson

Tricia helping a young man with his homework at Charleston's Cannon Street Y

Our first meeting was at Starbucks on Calhoun Street and we simply exchanged numbers and got a feeling of each other’s personalities.  The more I got to know Tricia the more impressed I was with her enthusiasm.  Tricia said that she grew up in a neighborhood where YMCA wasn’t in her community.  As a result she strongly believes a lot of people from her area were uneducated.

ABOUT TRICIA CASE..Hometown:  Dallas, Tex.
Major:  Arts Management
Graduation:  May 2011
Volunteer Activities:  I along with a few other College of Charleston students volunteer a few times a week at the YMCA on Cannon Street, tutoring and playing with the children after school.  In a typical I go up to the YMCA three to four days a week.  I typically take Friday off because I play softball.

What do you enjoy most about community service? 
I really enjoy helping out the children.  Nothing excites me like the look on their face when they figure out a math problem, or simply finish their homework.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction to know that I can help others grow and learn.  It really is one of the best feelings to know that you have helped some of the more unfortunate kids in our community.  I get a great sense of satisfaction doing this and I plan to continue to help kids with my career.
How do you think your friends and family would describe you? 
I think they would all describe me as very caring and nurturing

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?  I would tell them that they really won’t know how good it feels until they try it.  Several years ago I had no idea that a little volunteer work could change how I felt that day.  It will give you a sense of satisfaction knowing that you have helped someone else.
What has been your most memorable volunteer experience? My most memorable experiences have a lot to do with the sorority that I am involved in.  I am a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and have had numerous fun experiences with my sisters.  I also have a lot of good memories working at the YMCA.  Playing basketball or duck duck goose with the little ones brings a smile to my face every day.
What are your plans after graduation? Well I am not positive, but I would like to be able to continue to work and help children.  I believe I could make a great social worker or something along those lines.  Law School is always in the back of my head as well.