my student experience

A Lifetime of Giving Continues at Colby-Sawyer

Ashlee Willis '08, an Exercise Science major from Derry, N.H., is co-president of Colby-Sawyer's Community Service Club and for her, volunteering is a way of life. From collecting food, toys and clothing to roofing a house with Habitat for Humanity, there's no project Willis won't tackle, and she would like everyone to understand and experience the joy she feels every time she shows up to do something she doesn't have to: volunteer.

You've been involved in the Community Service Club for four years. Why is it so important for you and other college students to get involved in community service?

I have been doing community service my whole life. My mom always brought my brother and me with her when she went to volunteer, and seeing the difference we were able to make made it fun to go along. With the community service club here at Colby-Sawyer, I've done a ton of collecting and donating to our Thanksgiving food drive Lend-A-Hand, Take-A-Hand, mentoring at Kearsarge Regional Elementary School in New London, and traveling to the Gulf Coast to do Hurricane Relief work. I think it's important for college students to get involved because of the difference they can make, and they can have fun doing it!

What are some of the most important community service initiatives you've been involved with, at Colby-Sawyer and otherwise?

In high school, I remember being in the car with my mom only a few weeks before Christmas and hearing on the radio that Toys for Tots needed more toy donations. I knew we had to do something, so with the help of a friend, I was able to start a coat drive and a toy drive right before Christmas. We went to local businesses with fliers and boxes and we got a great response!

Also in high school, I teamed up with a family friend and we started a coat drive - we collected hundreds of winter jackets and coats along with many hats and mittens.

Here at Colby-Sawyer, I coordinated the mentoring program at the elementary school last year and the year before. Last year, Lisa Schriener and I started a mentoring program at the middle school as well. I enjoy working with kids, so the mentoring program is right up my alley!

I love going down to the school and hanging out with my mentee. It is amazing to see how much the little buddies look up to their mentors and how much of a difference the big buddies are able to make in the little buddies' lives – and vice versa!

How did you come up with this year's club slogan, “Understand Globally; Serve Locally?”

My big goal this year as one of the co-presidents of the Community Service Club was to participate in more service projects in the Kearsarge area. In the past we've done projects that affect the community, but we've travelled pretty far away to do most of the big projects we've participated in. This year my hope was to do more service work that would affect people in the community in which we live.

Already this year we've teamed up with Habitat for Humanity and roofed a modular home in Springfield, and we are talking with Habitat about making a handicap ramp that needs to be built for another home in Springfield. Also, as Alternative Spring Break coordinator, I hope to convince the group that local service is the way to go in March.

Why did you want to be co-president of the club this year, and coordinator of Alternative Spring Break program?

I wanted to be co-president because I have had so much fun in the past, and I wanted to make sure I was able to keep the club motivated and enthusiastic about service work, and make sure we had fun making a difference.

Same with being the alternative spring break coordinator: I wanted to make sure that wherever we went or whatever we did - whether it be going to another state, or staying in our dorm rooms and working in the New London area - that we could have fun and be comfortable while making a difference in people's lives.

While providing assistance for others, we gain so much, not only the satisfaction of a job well done, but also with the smiles from those that we help, whether it be a child in the mentoring program, or Ruthie, whose home we helped renovate in the Gulf Coast. It just feels great knowing you have really made a difference.