Generally, I wouldn’t call myself a procrastinator, but when it comes to filling out applications, I love to put them off. It has taken me the better part of a month to go through the process of pulling job applications for various summer positions, contacting references to make sure I’m still in their good graces and then actually sitting down to fill out the forms. But while I claim the reason I hate them is because the procedure is monotonous at best, the real reason is that filling out applications forces me to examine one of my greatest shortcomings a lack of community service.

My list of volunteering is despicably short and hardly as productive as I would like. On the one community service trip I went on when I was in high school a mission trip organized by my friend’s church, where we helped build porches and clean up the property of disadvantaged residents in rural Tennessee I arguably did more harm than good. On the second day of the job, I was put in charge of cutting boards with a circular saw; less than an hour in, I cut off the saw’s cord.

At the time, however, that trip afforded me an excuse not to serve my community for the next year of school I was content that I had ‘helped” people… or at least attempted to help them. Serving the community doesn’t need to be a sustained effort, right?

Now, it is not simply that I would like to volunteer more it is that I realize I should. Community service is a responsibility. Looking around the city of Rochester, it is only too easy to wonder, what’s wrong? Why is it that our crime rates are so high? Why is it that the Rochester City School District has a grotesquely low graduation rate of 52 percent?
Perhaps a factor is that the well-off citizens in the city have been shirking their duty, just as I have, to help the people around them. I don’t claim to have the answer to why RCSD isn’t doing its job, but I can’t imagine that college students volunteering their time to be mentors for the city’s youth would be anything but beneficial.

UR is not the bubble it at one point claimed to be. With more students living off campus and the University being the city’s largest employer, we are integrating more and more with the surrounding communities. But while hopefully students living in areas such as the 19th Ward will stimulate economic growth within those neighborhoods, that is not enough. Residing in an area can’t be thought of as a symbiotic relationship. Choosing to live in a community means choosing to better that community in some way.

As a student, the myriad of excuses I can use I have a paper to write, I have a job, I have the Campus Times, I have an intramural volleyball game to avoid doing community service are only too accessible. And it is frustrating that I have clung to those reasons as a means of escaping a civic responsibility. But with 2009 still relatively new and with the words of our recently-elected president still fresh in my mind, I’ve decided that it is not too late to amend my New Years resolution list.

Hilfinger is a member of
the class of 2010.

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