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Academic Struggles Hit Close to Home for Student Volunteers

Categories: Volunteerism

As any volunteer-based organization knows, student interns have much to offer, bringing fresh ideas, enthusiasm, and subject expertise to the table. Nevertheless, presenting volunteer opportunities that keep students engaged and fit into their busy schedules can elude many non-profits. That’s why we sat down with Deanna Zhu, Princeton University student and recent Learning Ally summer intern, to hear her opinion on ways students can get involved. Do you feel that Learning Ally is a good fit for students looking to volunteer? Deanna: I think for students who want to spend weekly hours volunteering, it’s very relaxing just to sit and read or proof the recordings. I also feel that for students like me, longer term involvement, whether volunteering or an internship, is a really great learning experience. How would you describe the studio community? Everyone was so excited to have me there and I got to know them all really well. At the end I was sad to leave! It felt like everybody who volunteers or works there becomes part of the Learning Ally community. Now that you’re back at school, how are you staying connected with the organization? What I’m trying to do now with Princeton University is get students more involved, and I think Learning Ally is a great place to do some volunteering. What Learning Ally offers is so important and I think students are such a useful resource for the organization. What did you take away from working with people who have reading disabilities? It made me realize there are other ways to learn. I had never really thought about people with disabilities, but after speaking to students with dyslexia and other learning differences for 10 weeks you realize how difficult it is for them to do something that we just take for granted. Especially for students, it’s very eye opening. Would you say for students, in general, that community service is a priority? I think once a student dedicates themself to one or two activities they are willing to spend a lot of time doing that. I know a lot of students who do consistent volunteering, such as weekly tutoring sessions at local schools or prisons. I’m on the Princeton EMT squad. People go to animal shelters, soup kitchens, and lots of other places. There are students who spend weekly time volunteering; it just needs to be convenient and easy to get to. What are your next steps to get students involved? If we start something though the student center we can organize a group of students to come to Learning Ally every week. It’s extremely possible. I think if people learn more about dyslexia and realize recording books is just as important as helping people in other ways, there’s a lot of potential for recruiting volunteers. Any final thoughts on your experience with Learning Ally so far? I feel really lucky. I felt like I was doing something good with my work there. It was meaningful because I believe in what the organization is striving for. It made everything feel more worthwhile. That’s why I want to continue helping Learning Ally in any way I can. It’s a unique and interesting way to help out your community and fellow students. I imagine how much harder it would be, as a student, to have a reading barrier, and some things would be different in ways I probably can’t even imagine. So I think giving students with learning differences the opportunities and tools they need to succeed is incredibly important.