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 21, 2011

TOMMY WERNER - Charleston Children's Museum

Amusement Can Be Fun and Fulfilling
By Nick Daigle

Tommy (left) interacts during arts and crafts time

Tommy Werner strives to give back Charleston's community of children and families. He volunteered with and now works for Charleston Children's Museum to help foster learning, fun and creativity with the children who visit.

Werner is a 19-year-old sophomore studying communication at the College of Charleston. He is the features editor for The George Street Observer, which is the College's official student newspaper. Werner hails from Fort Mill, S.C. just outside of Charlotte, N.C.

"The College of Charleston wasn't my first choice of schools, but as I look back and think about it, I know I made the right decision," Werner said. "I absolutely love the experiences I've had and friends I've made."

When Werner isn't studying for classes or working to meet a deadline for G, The George Street Observer's popular features magazine, you can find him working with the children who visit the Charleston Children's Museum. Werner wants to pursue a career in the children's books publishing industry. To him, working with the museum and the kids there, on a volunteer basis, is just as good - perhaps even a stepping stone to something better.

About Tommy Werner:
Hometown: Fort Mill, S.C.
Major: Communication
Graduation: May 2013

So Tommy, when you're not volunteering or in school, what do you do? I work with Cougar Media Network, the student-run student media organization on campus. That's kind of a neat thing because it gives students the chance to not only get published, but manage a very small publishing business. The Network's channels include radio, TV, online and print. Specifically, I manage the features section for The George Street Observer. So, I'm an encourager of creative writing and great experiences.

I also work with the Honors College on the publicity seat for the Honors Student Association. And for that, we put fun stuff together like Mellow Mushroom trivia night. I don't see why every student doesn't come to it every time we have it. It's also been a great experience there.

I also just got into the Charleston 40, which is the group of student's who go around campus and give tours of the College to prospective students and their parents. I just gave my first shadow tour for Accepted Students Weekend.

How do you think your friends and you co-workers would describe you? A lot of people have told me I'm thorough with things. They've told me I'm very thorough, very meticulous, and I like to think things out. I've had my parents and friends call me very organized. But at the same time, they've told me they like that I'm open to try new things and can be witty about stuff.

Why did you decide to volunteer at Charleston Children's Museum? Well I'm interested in doing work in the children's books publishing industry. I thought that volunteering would be a great stepping stone in that direction. Plus, I love working with kids, the museum is close to home and school, and it's not just tutoring children. One of the things I get to do is work on art projects with them. It's a lot of fun looking at this thing in front of us at figuring out what to do together. For example, there was a girl last week who wanted to make a cat out of paper towel rolls. It was hard getting it to stand up, so we worked together and eventually she found a solution.

What surprised you most about volunteering there? Well it's very unpredictable and there are very few set things that I have to do everytime I work. But, there's no telling what happens between the time I check in at 1 p.m. and when I check out at 6 p.m. There really is no telling what I am going to do. One time we had golf ball races. Another time I had to make a Ronald Reagan poster. I would've never thought that would've been part of the job.

How have you benefited personally from this experience? Like I said earlier, it's a career stepping stone. I gives me experience with kids and helps me learn from them too. I can guess where kids are because you can get a good idea of what trends are based on just being around them. But at the same time it's a career stepping stone. I get paid to be there now, so it's been great to move forward with what I'm really interested in and want to do.

What do you enjoy most about community service in general? It's a great way to give back. It's nice to feel like I'm contributing to the Charleston area. It's worth knowing that what I'm doing is going somewhere and it's really not just for me. I do school and newspaper work here and I'll get grades and a paycheck from those, but it's not the same kind of fulfillment you get from community service.

What advice would you give someone thinking about volunteering? Be ready to do stuff that you're not totally comfortable with. I think that's one thing I've had struggles with. Unlike a regular job you're not getting paid to do something you might not want to do or aren't comfortable with. So, because you're not getting paid, it might be harder to get over yourself and just do the things that are necessary. So, my advice is prepare to do the unexpected. And, do it with a smile.

What has been your most memorable experience? Well, I remember a birthday party that I helped to set up. I got to be out on the floor and interact with a tangible audience. I drew on the board, made signs and interacted with people, which was unlike what most of the volunteers did. That was really the best experience I had from when I was volunteering because I got to actually be a part of my passion and career intentions in a very real way for a great organization.

What are you plans for the summer? I am planning to apply for a summer internship to build my experience. And because I'll be home around Charlotte, I'd like to get involved volunteering there as well. If I have time I want to help in the production of this children's play that I was actually an actor in years ago. I just feel it would be a great way to give back in a different way.

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