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!

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.

KARYLE FADER- St. Jude's Children's Hospital

Physical Therapy to Community Therapy
By Emily Buckley

Karyle Fader (left) and sorority sister Ashley Varone (right) at a Christmas fundraiser

Karlye Fader is a determined woman gifted with empathy and grace. She enjoys the rewarding feeling she gets by giving back to those less fortunate than herself. She volunteers for several organizations in the community, while still holding a position in her sorority and doing well in her studies.
Karlye has devoted much of her time to helping others since high school when she volunteered for an organization that assisted adults with mental disabilities live on their own. Upon moving to Charleston, Fader was determined to find community work to give back to a city she loved so much. She did exactly that by volunteering at both MUSC and Charleston Miracle League. As if that was not enough, she became philanthropic hairman of the Tri Delta sorority, where she supports Saint Judes Children’s Hospital.
Fader takes pride in her eclectic service. She is happy that she can lend a helping hand to multiple people with varied needs.
About Karlye Fader…
Hometown: Reisterstown, Md.
Expected Graduation: Spring 2013
Major: Health and Human Performance with an Exercise Science concentration
Volunteer Activities: I volunteer for MUSC in the emergency room as well as the Inpatient Physical Therapy Clinic. I also volunteer for Charleston Miracle League to help children with disabilities play baseball. In addition to this, I am the philanthropy chairman for Delta Delta Delta at College of Charleston, where we support the children of St. Jude's Children’s hospital.
What do you enjoy most about community service? I love the sense of joy I feel after I have devoted my time to helping out in the community. After helping someone in need and seeing the appreciation on their face, it makes me feel good about myself and feel good about giving back to a community that has given so much to me.
What is your most memorable volunteer experience? Volunteering for Charleston Miracle League has definitely been my most memorable experience. Seeing the joy on the children’s’ faces while they are engaging in fun activities is the most rewarding part.
How does it personally benefit you? I have personally benefitted from volunteering because I have come to be very thankful for what I have and have learned to take nothing for granted.
What would I tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? I would tell someone to go for it. While, at first, it may seem a little awkward and uncomfortable, it gets so much better and at the end of the day you will walk away feeling very satisfied and proud for what you have just taken part in.
How do your friends and family describe you? I think my friends and family would describe me as a very loyal, passionate, and dedicated person. I am always willing to help people in need.
What are your plans after graduation? After graduation I plan to go to physical therapy school and receive my doctorate degree in physical therapy.
For more information about the work Delta Delta Delta does to support St. Jude's Children’s hospital please contact me at Also, for more information on Charleston Miracle League, visit the website:

Lauren Pittard- CofC New Student Orientation & REACH Program

Building the Bridge to the Future for College of Charleston students

By Cristobal Garcia King

Lauren Pittard (second on the bottom left) with other staff members of the College of Charleston 2010 Orientation.

Lauren Pittard is thrilled to be part of the Cougar Volunteer Spirit website.

When I told Lauren about the interview she was very excited and couldn't wait to be asked questions about her volunteering.

She is a kind and joyful soul that likes to help others and is always there for you.

She became a member of the Orientation Staff in 2010 and currently works with the REACH Program helping students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities here at the College of Charleston.

For Lauren, “Worry is the law of attraction working against you.”


Hometown; Augusta, Ga

Major: Psychology

Graduation: May 2011

Volunteer Activities: I became a member of the Orientation Staff in 2010 and I recently started helping members of the REACH program here at the college. I’m also part of the Student Leadership Center and back home I do some volunteer work for one of the local churches.

What do you enjoy most about the orientation program and volunteering?

I like helping other people out. In Orientation, for the new students it is always helpful to have a guiding experience around campus and I enjoy showing them the college and making things easier for them, that way they know how where everything is before the semester starts.

I just want to help. I enjoy helping others. Volunteering is very rewarding.

How do you think your friends and family would describe you?

My friends and family see me as how I am…I am a caring and kind person who wants to help the people who most need it.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about being part of the orientation staff or volunteer program?

You have to be passionate whatever you do. You have to enjoy helping others. At first it sounds easy, but it is hard work. When I volunteer I find peace and I feel good.

What have been your most memorable experiences?

Life at college in general has been a memorable experience. I’ve found wonderful people here at the college and I like to be close to the beach.

College is a learning experience and it has been memorable all the way.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I’ll be very happy and I want to go back to Augusta for a few months. I like teaching and I hope to find a good opportunity in the education community. I will never give up till I find what I want.


College of Charleston New Student Orientation


Phone: 843-953-2017


REACH Program

Phone: 843-953-4811


SHANELL RANSOM-CofC's Bonner Leadership Program

"Everyone Needs To Feel Loved" By Katy Sinkler Shanell At The Special Olympics with a young friend

Shanell Ransom has her god brother to thank for her unique experience at the College of Charleston. Unlike many students Shanell spends a majority of her time volunteering when she is not in the classroom, so much time that she is the Student Director for Civic Engagements at C ofC for the Bonner Leadership Program. When she is not busy creating events for students on campus you can find her doing a little volunteering herself. Shanell currently volunteers with Therapeutic Recreation for Mental Disabilities a few times a week. Shanell developed a passion for helping those with mental disabilities when she was younger, she would help out with her god brother who could not speak, and it was then she realized she felt bothered when they would go out in public and people would stare or treat him differently so she decided she was going to help make the change. Shanell feels that everyone needs help, should be treated equally and deserves to feel loved and that is what she does. Shanell helps with people who have mental disabilities and wants them to know they are no different from you or me. It is important for her to know that everyone feels loved. Shanell currently works with people anywhere from elementary age up to 60 years old. Shanell spends one-on-one time helping them with sports, games, activities, reading, writing, etc.

About Shanell Ransom………
Hometown: Columbia, S.C.Major: Sociology
Expected Year to Graduate: May 2013

Current Volunteer Activities: Therapeutic Recreation, Alternative Spring Break, Summer Service Eco-Tourism, Bonner Leadership Program. Past Volunteer Activities: International Service Program, Nursing Homes, Food Banks, Alternative Spring Breaks.

What is your most memorable volunteering experience? Last summer when I was a swim coach and there was a guy, who had to walk with a cane and had very limited arm use, we were trying to get him to use his arms and every day we he would try but not much would happen. By the end of the summer watching him is able to extend his entire arm even though it caused him pain, and swim in the pool was very memorable. I felt I was able to reach him he accomplished something and show great appreciation for our help.

What are you most proud of contributing to your organization? Being able to serve others, I would rather be the person who makes someone smile, but have a smile on my face at the same time. I am proud that I am contributing to make the world a better place. How do you think your friends and family would describe you? Bubbly caring soul, always smiling and extremely happy but mindful of my surroundings. Always willing to serve when needed and least expected.

What would you tell someone who is thinking of volunteering? DO IT… Have an open mind and be prepared, you can do it and help make the world we live in a better place.

What are your plans after graduation? My plans are to go to Law School if I do not go to Law School right away I plan to take a year to give service.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

JACOB KELLER – Operation Smile

Making a Difference, One Smile at a Time
 By Michelle Davey
            Keller with children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Jacob Keller was a high school athlete with big aspirations. Wanting to get involved with a meaningful organization his freshman year, he joined Operation Smile. When he transferred high schools, he started a new chapter. Now, six years after his first exposure to the organization, Keller is the founder and president of CofC’s Operation Smile.

Operation Smile is a non-governmental organization and charity that rallies medical professionals and volunteers. Together, they provide free reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities. The most common deformities are cleft lip and cleft palate.

Each year more than 200,000 children are born with a severe cleft condition. These children are unable to eat, speak, or socialize. In many cases, poverty blocks access to the simple corrective surgeries.

Keller speaks with pride and humility about his work with Operation Smile. Through the organization, he’s traveled all over the world – recently Cambodia and India – and impacted the lives of countless children.


Hometown: New Providence, N.J.

Major: International Relations

Graduation: Spring 2013

Volunteer Activities: Before Operation Smile, I built bridges in Wisconsin and in New York, I gave jackets and peanut butter sandwiches to homeless people in New York City. Now, I do a bunch of stuff with Operation Smile… everything from awareness-raising to fundraising to going on missions.

As a high school student, you go and teach kids and their families about nutrition, dental hygiene, and burn care and prevention. You’re educating them on things that can basically save lives in the future.

You also assist doctors during (medical) screenings – to see if patients can survive surgery – often patients have never seen a doctor before.

What do you enjoy most about your service? When we go, we help doctors by distracting patients so the doctors can do what they need to do. We hang out with kids before and after surgery – it’s kind of a stressful ordeal for them. We bring bubbles and toys to alleviate the stress.

What was your most memorable experience? There was one kid in Cambodia who was from the northern part of the country. He was an orphan and had burn scars all over his face and body, and he had a cleft palate. One of the workers (for Operation Smile) wanted to bring him to Phnom Penh – which was where we were – to have surgery. The orphanage didn’t want to let him (have the surgery), so the guy quit his job, sold a bunch of stuff and took the kid to Phnom Penh.

What are you most proud of contributing to Operation Smile? What I’m proudest of is probably seeing the difference we make and the smiles we create, not to be cliché. That’s what I’m most proud of – not the difference that I can make, but the difference anyone can make.

What have you enjoyed the most about your volunteering? I enjoy the traveling. I like seeing new things, but probably the most rewarding thing is just seeing the difference that you can do. It’s just a really cool feeling.

Another cool thing about the organization is that you meet people from all over the world. In Cambodia, I was there with my mission partner – we were both from New Jersey – and there were surgeons from the Philippines and anesthesiologists from India, and doctors and pediatricians from Russia. Now I have friends on every continent.

How have you personally benefited from volunteering? I’ve definitely grown more humble. You just see things from a different light. As you grow, you leave your comfort zone. You work from six in the morning to nine at night, you get a few hours of sleep, get up and do it again, and again, and again, and somehow you’re not tired at all. It definitely helps you grow.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? Anybody can make a difference. It’s proven. But you have to have the dedication. There are going to be obstacles. If you’re thinking about doing it, give it a shot. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. If you like it, stick with it.

How do you think your friends and family would describe you? Hopefully in a good light!

What are your plans after graduation? I want to work for Operation Smile as a mission coordinator. (Operation Smile) hires people right out of college, and what you do is oversee everything from working with the hospitals, to working with the hotels that the whole mission is staying at, to getting the medical supplies. You work with everything and I think that’d be really cool. It’s a two year term. After that, I don’t know.

To learn more about CofC’s Operation Smile, email Keller directly at To learn more about the national Operation Smile organization, visit its website

About the writer

Michelle is a senior communication major at the College of Charleston.

KARA CRONIN: Make A Wish & Special Olympics

Uplifting Others:
One Pair of Minnie Mouse Ears and Smile at a Time

By Hunter Smith

Kara dressed as Minnie Mouse at one of the Make A Wish send-offs

There is no denying that College of Charleston student Kara Cronin has a selfless love for volunteering. And with her contagious smile and spirit, it is no wonder that she has touched the lives of so many people. Kara is a freshman from Manchester, N.H., majoring in communication. She is also an active and dedicated member of CofC's Alpha Delta Pi sorority. Kara says her mother raised her to believe that the best way to feel good about herself is by uplifting others, and she has been volunteering for as long as she can remembr. Kara has assisted many organizations such as the Make A Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, Kristin's Gift Foundation, and the YMCA.

About Kara Cronin...

Hometown: Manchester, N.H.
Major: Communication
Expected Graduation: May 2014

What do you enjoy most about community service? The thing I enjoy most about community service is how much the people I'm assissting appreciate my help. There's no better feeling than knowing you made a difference, whether it be to one person or to an entire organization.

Most memorable volunteer experience? Definitely the Make A Wish send-offs where I dress up as Minnie Mouse and say goodbye to the kids as they leave for their Disney wishes.

What are you most proud of contributing to your organizations? I would have to say my enthusiasm towards the causes I work with. I was very close to a girl who died of cancer at age 15. Having witnessed her wish granted by the Make A Wish Foundation just before she lost her battle gave our family incentive to get on board and do whatever we could to enhance wishes for kids like Kristin. I can't tell you how many times I've donned the Mickey or Minnie Mouse costume and visited little kids who needed cheering up! Let's just say that more than a time or two my Facebook profile picture has featured me with a big head... and a polka dot bow and dress! Also, just after school began, and about one minute after receiving a CofC email message announcing a chapter of the Special Olympics was being started here, I emailed the president that I wanted to be a part of its beginning and its success. I guess I am proud that I acted so quickly instead of waiting for someone else to do so.

How have you personally benefited from volunteering? I think volunteering is in my blood. I never knew a time in my life that didn't involve community service of some kind. My mom, who definitely got it passed down from her dad before her, taught me through so many "family volunteering events" that the best way to feel good about yourself is to help lift others up. In fact, my earliest memories are of our Saturday morning visits to the local nursing home where my sister and I would crawl onto the laps of residents to sing little songs or just deliver hugs to those who didn't often have visitors. Volunteering has given me a better understanding of the different populations I've worked with and a deeper appreciation for what I am grateful for in my own life.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? I would tell them it is all about taking the first step. There are so many opportunities out there, and the "feel good" goes both ways. Plus, you meet a lot of great people when you get involved, never knowing what it might lead to next.

How do you think your friends and family would describe you? My friends and family have always described me as someone with a quick smile, an easy personality, who is very comfortable to be around. They say I can blend well with all types of people...and I have to wonder if that is due in part to my my history of volunteering.

What are your plans for after graduation? I want to go into the communication field whether is be in PR, broadcast journalism or something of that nature. I would love to be involved with Special Education in some way as well. It's still early for me, so i'm keeping my options open.

More information on Kara's volunteer organization: The Special Olympics Club on campus just started this past semester and we were just officially recognized as a club right before Christmas break. I helped start up the club along with Emily Rogers, Emmie Clisham, Claire Niccolato and Garrett Porter and took on the positions of secretary and social events chair. Since we are just getting our feet off the ground, we haven't had a chance to do too much yet, but what we have done has been a blast. Two other officers and I recently attended a SOSC (Special Olympics South Carolina) conference where we got to interact with high school volunteers, board members, and the athletes themselves. CofC has the only club on the collegiate level in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and now we're spreading the word to other schools in the area to get them involved as well. I think it's really cool that we can say we started it, especially since the athletes enjoy our involvement so much.

We had volunteers at the MidWinter games over spring break who all said that they had an incredible experience. We're currently working on setting up weekly or monthly activites for the athletes to play with our own CofC athletic teams and we're looking forward to holding a field day early next fall where all the athletes an volunteers can come out and play a variety of their favorite sports with new friends.

NANCY AUSTIN - Dance Marathon

Getting It All Done and
Still Having Time for Fun

By Amy Gustafson

Nancy (back row, second from left) with the rest of the
executive board at Dance Marathon 2011.

When I first started talking with Nancy Austin, I was blown away by all the things she is able to get done in a day. She is taking a full load of classes, and they are hard; I would know, I am in a few of them. Along with those classes she is on the executive board of two different student organizations. She is part of the pre-medical student group, Alpha Epsilon Delta(AED), as well as part of one of the largest philanthropy groups at the College of Charleston. She has been a part of Dance Marathon since she came to the College and she joined the executive board this past year.

She amazes me with all that she does. Sometimes I have even heard her say that she has been up doing things for various classes or clubs since four in the morning! If anybody deserves to be recognized by Cougar Volunteer Spirit it is Nancy Austin. She brightens the day of everyone around her and still manages to d
o well in school and give back to the community.

About Nancy Austin
Aiken, S.C.
Major: Biology
Minors: Chemistry, Psychology
Expected Graduation: May 2011

Volunteer Activities: I have been attending Dance Marathon since my freshman year at College of Charleston. My freshman year I made a team with my roommates. During my sophomore and junior year I was the Team Captain of the on-campus Baptist Christian Ministry's team. For my senior year I am the Hospitality chair on the executive board for Dance Marathon. I have also been a part of AED where I have been Food chair for one year.

What do you enjoy most about community service? I think it is fun to see how my actions can affect other people. With some organizations you can't see the direct effect you have on people but with Dance Marathon you get to see that direct effect that you have on families and their children.

Most memorable volunteer experience? The first day I volunteered in the emergency room at the Medical University of South Carolina, the doctors were showing me around and they pulled back the curtain around one of the beds and there was a patient lying there with his guts spilled out on the table! It was quite an experience. I can honestly say I well never forget that day for the rest of my life.

What are you most proud of contributing to your organizations? I'm most proud of being able to recruit people. I enjoy spreading the word about MUSC's Children's Hospital. I like being able to help the families.

How have you personally benefited from volunteering? With volunteering I have become much more organized. I've developed my time management skills along with people skills that you normally wouldn't be able to pick up on the street. When you're at Dance Marathon you get to meet some of the families you're actually helping and when you talk to them you have to be conscious of what you say and how you say it. It's those skills that I've acquired during my volunteer work with Dance Marathon.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? Do it!

How do you think your friends and family would describe you? I think my friends and family would describe me as hard working, generally optimistic, and cheerful.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation I'm going to take a few more classes here at the College of Charleston and I'll hopefully be working in a hospital. After that I plan on applying to Physician's Assistant school.

To learn more about the Dance Marathon program at the College of Charleston, please visit this website:

About the author:
Amy Gustafson is a senior communication and chemistry major at the College of Charleston.

BRADY SAVAGE- VITA Tax Services, CSYC Junior Sailing Camp

A Major Tax Deduction by Sailing Camp
By Reid Armstrong

Savage, teaching a youth summer camp how to sail.
Brady Savage, a Junior at the College of Charleston, has been involved in community service for most of his adult life. So after leaving his hometown of Grosse Pointe, M.I. he began looking for new organizations to continue his community services. Being in the top of his class for the accounting school, Savage was approached by VITA Tax Support to join in helping underprivileged local citizens with their annual tax needs.VITA serves to support people in their tax needs through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. 

Savage started his community service in the seventh grade by joining his mother in her Meals on Wheels routes. Savage says, "She really is the one that got me started with my community service, I went out with her one day and had a blast helping others who were less fortunate that we were."

Savage, a decorated seaman, has been giving free sailing lessons every summer since he was 14 years old. He says, " I don't even consider teaching kids how to sail a community service. I just happened to be really good at it, and good with children. The kids really make me feel better that I make them feel, and having another reason to be out on a sailboat is bliss."

About Brady Savage...

Hometown- Grosse Pointe, Mich.
Year- Junior (Graduating May 2012)
Major- Accounting 
Age- 21

What exactly do you do at your volunteer activities?
Well, for VITA, I sit down in a pre-assigned cubicle and literally walk people through their tax forms. If they are capable and willing, I show them how to do their own taxes. We also let them know that by teaching them how to do their own taxes does not mean that they are not allowed to come back next year. We encourage that they do come back and allow us to walk them through it again, or double check after what they have done. For the sailing camp I teach local kids how to sail. We teach them the values that sailing will offer them as well as the safety precautions that come with sailing. 

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer services?
When I leave, knowing that I helped somebody other than myself, it is a really good feeling. Call it being selfish, but I really enjoy feeling good about doing something for a complete stranger. 

What was your most memorable volunteer service experience?
There have been a lot of "close calls" out there sailing, but one time a kid did get knocked off his boat. I jumped in after him to make sure he was going to be ok. He was unconscious for less than a minute. All the other counselors credited me with saving his life, but I was just acting off pure instincts, and he would have been fine without my immediate assistance. It odes feel good to know that I am prepared for the worst if the real situation ever occurs. 

How have you benefited from your volunteer experiences?
Just the satisfaction of helping others is benefit enough for me. Other than that I can say that my patience level has increased greatly through both of my community service experiences. I enjoy what I do and as long as the time permits I will continue doing it. 

If one of your friends were asked to describe you, what would they say?
I hope they would describe me as somebody that likes to have fun, meet new people, and as somebody that likes to help others. I am sure they would throw in a few other characteristics, but those are the three that pretty much sum it all up. 

What would you tell somebody who was considering volunteering?
Do it, but only if you are really passionate about the service you are about to join. It doesn't matter if you are not amazing at what you are going to be helping with, you being there is help enough. This really means a lot to the people that you are helping, so you should be very passionate about helping them. 

What are your plans for after graduation?
I plan on going straight to grad school. I hope to get into Michigan State. They have a really good accounting program and will surely be able to secure me a position at one of the big four accounting firms. I can't say that during grad school, but after I am sure some free tax services options will continue to be explored. 


The Sweetest Girl on Campus
by: Rianne Mullins

Dede (front left) at one of the events she coordinated for her sorority,
Chi Omega. She had two public safety officers come to the sorority house
to demonstrate to the girls how to defend themselves in a time of need.

It does not take long after first meeting Dede Bearden to realize how genuine of a person she truly is. She will freely tell you that she did not have the easiest time adjusting to life at the College of Charleston after moving from her hometown, Nashville, Tenn. Now that she is more settled as a junior, she has definitely found her niche and made a solid name for herself around campus, and a great one at that.

If you were to ask the people who know Dede the best, they would tell you that she is one of the more thoughtful people that they know. Whether it is remembering a friend’s birthday, doing activities as her sorority’s vice president or volunteering as a tutor at the local YMCA twice a week, she is always thinking about how to enrich peoples’ lives around her.

Getting to know Dede Bearden…

Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.

Major: Communications

Anticipated Graduation: May 2012

What do you enjoy most about community service?

What I like about volunteering is that it allows you to step out of your own world or "bubble." College students, especially, can easily get too caught up into their own problems or daily life. We have school, jobs, and sometimes fraternities or sororities to think about, and we forget that there is a community outside of our college environment. By volunteering, you get perspective back on bigger issues. You also gain appreciation for the things you have. On a day-to-day basis, I often forget how lucky I am, and volunteering can reopen your eyes to that.

What would you say your most memorable volunteer experience ever was?

When I was in eighth grade, my class went to volunteer at a local soup kitchen as a field trip. It was one of my first experiences volunteering, and I was so moved by the organization and working for the homeless, that I wrote a letter to the head of the soup kitchen. I also donated my 16th birthday money to the non-profit called Samaritan Ministries. When I sent the check for a few hundred dollars as well as my letter Samaritan ministries called me. They had News Channel 5 in Nashville come to my house to interview me and put me on TV. I was on the local news as the "volunteer of the week."


Cassie Wise (top left) at mock car crash last
semester on George Street.

Helping Others When They Need It Most
By Katherine Merkel

Cassie Wise is one Cougar that has your back...literally. The CofC junior spends her free time volunteering with College of Charleston Fire and EMS, offering students, faculty, and staff with free medical care.

Before coming to College of Charleston, Wise volunteered with Six Forks EMS in her hometown of Raleigh, N.C. She started volunteering with CofC EMS as a freshman and now serves as the team's chief of training. Her duties include conducting bi-monthly training meetings to keep her team up-to-date on procedures and protocols.

Committed to serving her fellow Cougars and the Charleston community, Wise is running for this year's program director, where she intends to give back even more. With three years under her belt, what she enjoys most is "being able to help the community when they need help the most."

About Cassie Wise

Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.
Major: Physics
Expected Graduation Date: May 2012

Volunteer Activities: As a senior in high school I started volunteering with Six Forks EMS. When I came to College of Charleston I started volunteering with the school's programs, but during breaks when I go back home I still volunteer with Six Forks.

What is your most memorable volunteer experience? Well there are many patient stories that have stuck with me over the years, but I'm not allowed to share those. So I guess, the most memorable would be ranking 8th in the National Collegiate EMS competition last year. I along with three other team members traveled to Baltimore, M.D. to compete in the competition where we had to perform protocols for different medical scenarios.

What are you most proud of contributing to your organization? There are two things that I am most proud of. One is that I helped our division go from BLS (Basic Life Support) certified to ILS (Immediate Life Support) certified. Now that we are ILS certified we can start IV's (Intravenous Therapy) and give out medicine. I'm also proud of the mock car crash CofC EMs put on last semester on George Street because I was the one to come up with the idea. I wanted to show students that CofC EMs does more than hand out band-aids and get people in trouble for being drunk.

How have you personally benefited from volunteering? Thanks to this exprerience I have better decision-making abilities, I work well under stress and I have good time management skills. This type of volunteer work has also allowed me to work with and treat various types of people; therefore I have learned to work well with all of them no matter the circumstances.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? To not be afraid to step up, and don't be intimidated that you are on an emergency scene. Just take a step back and take a deep breath, definitely don't panic.

How do you think friends and family would describe you? Hopefully as someone who works hard and knows when its time to focus. I've actually been referred to as a bad ass, which I'm pretty proud of.

What are your plans after graduation? My plans after college are to go into the Navy as a nuclear officer. I would stay with navy for six years, where I would be stationed on an aircraft carrier. Hopefully I'll be stationed abroad because I would love to travel.

To find out more about volunteering with College of Charleston Fire and EMS you cans visit their website at


Making Everyone Feel Accepted
By Alexis Butler

Leander (right), with a young man from the Best Buddies program

Leander Hamrick keeps a busy schedule. From being a full-time student, working at an after school program at Hanahan Elementary School, and acting as the president for Best Buddies at the College of Charleston, she always has something to keep her busy.

As we continued to talk about her volunteering with special needs kids and her aspirations for the future, being a part of Best Buddies makes perfect sense since it is a nonprofit organization that establishes one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Not only does she hope to work in a learning disabilities classroom at an elementary school, but she also wants to work in getting her master’s to practice speech pathology.

Finding the time to volunteer as much as she does in her out of control schedule only adds to her appeal. While speaking with Leander on what it’s like being the president of such a well-known organization that has chapters on campuses all throughout the country, it’s easy to see the gratification and the love for what she does in her eyes. Then again, it’s not surprising that after she graduates she hopes to continue working with special needs kids.

About Leander Hamrick...

Hometown: Lexington, S.C.
Major: Special Education
Expected Graduation: May 2012

Volunteer Activities: Besides being the president of the College of Charleston chapter of Best Buddies, I volunteer at a local nursing home when I can and I’ve fed the homeless on Thanksgiving Day. I have also taught vocation bible school for both 4-year-olds and special needs kids.

What do you enjoy most about community service? The thing that I most enjoy about community service is getting to see the happiness it brings to other people. If there is anything I can do to help someone in need I am willing to do it. It not only helps others but it broadens my experiences and knowledge of other cultures.

What is your most memorable volunteer experience? One of my most memorable volunteer experiences was feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving Day. This was important to me because I did this with my entire family. Although my family and I did not have a formal Thanksgiving like we normally do, we could see the impact we had on the families that we fed. Without our effort they would not have had the Thanksgiving dinner that I am accustomed to.

What are you most proud of contributing to Best Buddies? I am proud of being a leader for such a great organization. One major issue in the disabled community is being accepted in the community. Best Buddies is a great way to get these individuals seen within the community and lessen the stigma of intellectual disabilities. Not only are the individuals seen in the community, they also participate in community service and give back to the community. It is a chance to help multiple and various people all at one time.

How have you personally benefitted from volunteering? I have grown a lot as a person. Volunteering not only helps others, but it also helps you grow as a person and helps you in finding out what truly is important.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering? To volunteer in an area that is important to you. Best Buddies is a perfect volunteer opportunity for me because I am going into the field of special education. There are so many volunteer opportunities. Find something that interests you and what you might want to do one day. It will be worth it!

How do you think your friends and family would describe you? My friends and family would describe me as busy and determined. I am extremely busy with school, work, and community service. I am determined to be as educated and as knowledgeable as I can be about all subjects. Ultimately I want to be a well-rounded person and my friends and family realize that I strive for that everyday.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation I will teach in an elementary school in a learning disabilities classroom. I will eventually get my Masters of Communication Disorders and practice speech pathology. Ultimately I would love to get my doctorate and open my own speech pathology practice.

How can students receive more information about volunteering with Best Buddies? Students can look on the Best Buddies National Website to find out more specifics about the organization as a whole. If a student is interested in Best Buddies at College of Charleston they can email or wait until we hold our information sessions in the fall.