Forget the Saturday nap: With a day off from classes, Nicole Overby, a senior at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, headed to the lecture hall. She’d spend the afternoon assembling coloring books, which would be given to patients at the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.
“I always tell people that they don’t know what an amazing feeling community service is until they try it,” Overby, an accounting major from Erie, said. “The drive home after a volunteer event is the best feeling in the world. Knowing that you helped someone and did something to better the world around you gives you a feeling that cannot be explained, only felt.”
There are nearly a dozen service-focused clubs at Penn State Behrend. Many other student groups and organizations include service projects as part of their regular activities.
Overby is the president of Circle K, a service club affiliated with Kiwanis International. She first became involved with Kiwanis in high school.
Penn State Behrend’s Circle K club has 20 members from a variety of backgrounds.
“It brings together students from all majors, races and genders,” Overby said. “It is such a diverse group, which is awesome, because it means that we come up with lots of different volunteer ideas and activities.”
Among the group’s endeavors this academic year: cleaning wheelchairs and gurneys at Saint Vincent Hospital; participating in Relay for Life; helping at the Kiwanis antique show and bowling night; volunteering at Holy Trinity soup kitchen, taking the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics; raising funds through the college’s Cardboard City event; and assisting at Meals on Wheels.
“The soup kitchen was one of my favorite events,” Overby said. “Besides prepping the meals, we were also able to distribute them and sit and interact with the clients. It is important to open our eyes and have compassion for the hardships others face. It also makes me much more grateful for my own life and the opportunities that I’ve had.”
On Feb. 18, the club hosted the Circle K spring officer training, working with newly elected club officers from several local universities, including Mercyhurst University, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. A service project – the coloring books – was embedded in the day’s activities.
Overby will intern at Bank of America in New York City this summer. She expects to graduate in December and sit for the CPA exam before returning to Penn State Behrend to earn her M.B.A. Though she is still pondering the area of accounting she wants to focus on, she’s already certain of one thing: She will continue her service work in the future.
“I will definitely seek out the local Kiwanis Club in whatever city I end up working,” she said. “I love interacting with different people and having volunteer events to look forward to. I feel like community service helps me as much as it helps others.”
If nothing else, Overby’s service work has taught her to find the good in others. When asked who inspires her, she said: “Every person. Every day.
“I have met coworkers who have three jobs to provide for their families,” she explained. “I have met peers in my classes who are taking crazy amounts of classes so they can graduate early and save money. I have met faculty members who go out of their way to help students because they truly care about them. These people inspire me every single day. I hope that I can inspire others someday.”