University students have relatively little to worry about most of the time beyond the next exam. But that isn’t the reality for many Michigan residents, 14.4 percent of whom live below the poverty line as of 2008, according to statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau. Fortunately, community service organizations attempt to combat social problems with the help of volunteers. And students are prime candidates to volunteer. Organizations like the Detroit Partnership have launched initiatives that provide easy, accessible opportunities for students to give back to their communities. And with many options available that require little time and no cash, students should take advantage of opportunities to give back to the state.

On Saturday, the University students participated in the 11th annual Detroit Partnership Day. The Detroit Partnership pairs University student volunteers with schools, churches and community groups in Detroit to aid efforts to restore and improve the city. During this year’s Detroit Partnership Day, 1,000 students worked at 30 sites around the city to demolish abandoned homes, clean parks and paint murals. This year’s Detroit Partnership Day put 200 more students to work than last year’s event.

Most students are sheltered from the most adverse effects of the current economic recession by attending college instead of entering the labor market. Students should utilize opportunities provided by organizations like the Detroit Partnership to take a day to learn about and donate time to local communities. It is encouraging to see that the participation rates have hit new highs this year, but the need for volunteers is as high as ever. But students are in a key position to help Michigan communities. With opportunities for service so varied in time commitment, cause and activity, students should be able to find the time and the organization with which to volunteer.

Help need not take the form of monetary donations or giving clothes and possessions to charity. For students who often don’t have extra cash, donating a few hours instead of a few bucks to service organizations is an easy way to connect with the community and help others. This can take the form of tutoring at a local school a couple of times a week or spending a few hours volunteering at a shelter or food bank. These opportunities can utilize students’ skills — or simply their spare time — to make a big difference for real people and the community.

The Detroit Partnership is just one organization that facilitates easy access to service opportunities. There is a rich array of volunteer and service organizations to choose from ranging from cleaning up parks to mentoring children without stable role models. On Maize Pages alone, students can find a list of 140 organizations devoted to community service, many of which allow them to experience first-hand the problems afflicting those not protected by the University’s ivory towers.

Opportunities for service are plentiful, and the variety of options on campus makes giving back to the community easy, accessible and affordable. Students should take advantage of their removal from the labor market to help those most damaged by its collapse.

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