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!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


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.

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