By HANNAH FARROW
Jessie Beckett, a senior psychology major at UT, had no idea what she was getting into when she applied to work for PEACE in her second semester of her sophomore year. Now, as the co-director for alternative breaks, Beckett said it’s “pretty amazing” how much both she and the organization have grown.
With more structure and an improvement in leadership, the PEACE volunteer center has increased in numbers and opportunities in the last two years. New student coordinators, Daniel Holahan, junior entrepreneurship major, and Jennifer Sanchez, senior political science and philosophy major, were hired and the number of members increased from 790 to 2,097. The marketing team created new ways to reach out to students allowing for over 65 volunteer opportunities.
“I was thrown into the fire by coming in on the second semester,” Beckett said. “We created an open atmosphere and general equality in the office space.”
But even with these improvements and increasing numbers, PEACE wants to get more people through their door.
“We want the student body to know that we’re here and we really want them to be engaged in their community,” Beckett said. “Our goal is to create a community of active citizens. We want just an ounce of their effort and an inch of their time for the student body to grow through their awareness.”
Beckett says a lot of students participate with PEACE because they need community service hours or conduct has instructed them to do so. While PEACE is grateful for anyone who helps, Beckett wants the student body to realize they can get engaged starting freshman year.
“We’re working hard to get the student numbers and to also change the mentality to service being the norm,” Beckett said. “Service is a cool thing to do.”
Volunteers will also learn a lot. According to Holahan and Sanchez, PEACE had over 12,000 community service hours recorded through their office.
“I didn’t know how to put up drywall until I did community service,” Beckett said. “I didn’t know how to use a hammer or a power saw. I didn’t know how many homeless people are in the city of Tampa. I didn’t know about the endangered population of exotic birds until I started volunteering in Tampa.”
This knowledge can be gained through the events that PEACE holds throughout the entire year. The marketing team does their best to spread awareness through outlets like social media and global emails, letting the student body know about them as best as possible.
Tatum Flowers, a freshman international business major, found out about PEACE through the Into the Streets event where Beckett was her team leader.
“Volunteering opened my eyes to the different associations around Tampa,” Flowers said. “Not just religious ones, but social and political ones that shape our Tampa community.”
Flowers is now on the committee for alternative breaks where she and others discuss social issues within the community and around the globe. Flowers loves having the opportunity to help people, especially when she gets to work side by side with those in PEACE.
“We’re a family,” Beckett said. “We’re quiet when we’re told to be quiet, but we also joke with each other and create a fun atmosphere.”
Last year’s international trip was to Ecuador where the students learned about cultural education and environmental preservation by working with the Snowbird Cherokee Community over a two week time frame. According to the description on OrgSync, the students worked to maintain the trails and clean up the creeks in the Cherokee National Forest and in the Smoky Mountains National Park, where they also helped removed invasive plant species.
To become a part of the PEACE family and to get involved, visit orgsync.com to look at past and future events or visit the PEACE office on the second floor of Vaughn, room 206.
Hannah Farrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org