Walking through the doors, laughter and excited voices greet students, along with the anticipation of finding a unique service opportunity. Informative flyers cover the front desk, photos of program directors, staff and leaders decorate the Center for Service and Learning.
Every student can find a way to serve through the center. With 60 programs students can participate in, there are a variety of skills and interests that can be met. Some organizations include Horses for Healing, the Vineyard, Best Buddies, BYU Experience and TOPS. The Vineyard is a translation service through the Church and TOPS provides tutors for elementary school students.
“Some people will come in and say, I need to find a program that I can do on a regular basis, because I know that if I schedule it regularly I’m more apt to do it,” said Janine Green, operations supervisor at the center. “Students say, I know if it’s something scheduled my life will be blessed.”
There are some volunteer experiences that require weekly participation and some that just need volunteers without a commitment.
“It’s not having an excess of time that gives us the desire to serve, it’s having the desire to serve,” Green said. “Somehow everything fits.”
Green recounted how a woman came into the center looking lost. After speaking with Green, the woman told her she felt she really needed to serve. She said the only thing that would get her through, is if she could serve someone else.
Green calls these encounters “miracle moments.” They are not uncommon, but treasured by the center and by the student.
Another miracle moment involves the Service to the World organization which provides needed supplies to children all over the world through LDS Humanitarian Services. One volunteer recognized the kind of dolls being made and said he received one as a boy from the center.
These miracle moments are the driving energy behind the continued service offered at the center. Program directors and staff work together to provide every student an individual experience.
“As office assistants, we’re like the Google of the center,” said John Wilde, an office assistant at the Center for Service and Learning. “You go to Google to get sent somewhere and so it’s fun to get to know someone and try to find a unique and meaningful service opportunity for that individual.”
Wilde said the center is unique because of the positive energy. It’s a place where everyone cares about the individual and want to help them find meaning.
“Because of the way that this office feels, from my interactions with people here, staff and volunteers, it’s become a place where I find refuge,” Wilde said. “I walk away usually feeling much better than when I came in.”
Each program offered at the Center for Service and Learning, is led by students, known as program directors. These students have service council members and a community service coordinator that works with them. The president and vice-president lead the entire center along with the office administration and office staff.
“It’s just been a great experience just seeing the students; I don’t think the center could work without the students leader,” said Becky Smoot, community service coordinator at the center.
Smoot works as a liason between the community partners and the BYU service groups. She said that the community partners love working with the students. BYU’s Habitat for Humanity program won an award last year from the community partner, BYU’s program was highlighted at a dinner along with other individuals in the community.
“Community partners … really love having BYU students volunteer,” Smoot said.
Student volunteers allow the center to continue doing the work it provides to the surrounding community. The TOPS program sends students to elementary, middle and high schools to help out in classrooms around the Provo District.
“TOPS was so much fun, I looked forward to that hour every week,” said Kaylie Horch, a sophomore studying nursing from Portland, Ore. “It was the best days of the week. I’d go work with these kids and it was just a little brain break for me.”
Because she volunteered, Horch later received a job as a student aide with the teacher she was assigned through TOPS. Horch said she appreciates that TOPS volunteers come in to help keep the class on task and allow her to work with some of the kids individually that need it.
“It’s really helpful to make sure that these kids are developing at the rate that they need to be,” Horch said.