First Person: Students' sense of communityBy Ann Westgarth
February 20, 2012
Students who go the extra mile for their neighbourhood are to be recognised in Reading University’s Student Community Awards – but first they need to be nominated.
As National Student Volunteering Week begins this week, Ann Westgarth, the university’s community relations manager explains why you should put forward a young person to be recognised
In my role as community relations manager at The University of Reading I’m always immensely impressed by the number of students I come across who have whole-heartedly embraced Reading as their new home and the affection they quickly develop for the place they have come to.
I’m unsure as to whether this is something experienced by students in other university towns or whether it is something more specific to Reading.
What I do know is that at least 12 per cent of our students, to date, have stayed in the area to live and work after graduating.
This sense of belonging is felt by both home and overseas students.
One of the main reasons I have for believing that this is the case is the numerous examples I come across where students engage with the community by volunteering or just plain helping out in some way.
It was something I felt went largely unrecognised.
For this reason, four years ago, I decided to set up the University Student Community Awards scheme to recognise the efforts of students who give up their spare time to help others in the community.
The awards work like this. Each year, fellow students, staff and local residents nominate students who they think deserves a prize.
A committee then meets to decide who will win the top award and there is a small monetary award for those whose efforts we consider to be most impressive.
We love reading through the forms and are often surprised by the range of things that our students do, from the regular, week in week out help at Scouts and Guides or church youth groups, unsung steady work which is so vital to keep groups going, to one-off completely unprompted acts of kindness such as the Christmas dinner a student cooked at his home on Christmas Day for local pensioners.
A lot of what students do is, not surprisingly, academic and being a practical sort of person myself I know the value of ‘doing’.
There is immense personal satisfaction in giving the time and making the effort to do something for someone else.
I also like the idea that the funding for these awards comes from the University’s Annual Fund, another example of the generosity of our graduates who create a fund every year through their donations so that students can receive bursaries or equipment or, as in this case, to provide an award recognising students’ contribution to their community.
Next week, February 20-24, is Student Volunteering Week and the Students’ Union has organised a Volunteering Fayre when more than 30 local groups will set up stalls so that students who are not already volunteering can see what is on offer.
This will add further to the 1,500 University of Reading students who are already engaged in volunteering activities this year.
In the meantime, if you would like to nominate a student for a Student Community Award please get in touch with me and I’ll send you a short form to complete by March 25, 2012.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (0118) 378 4479.