Most students at the University spend approximately eight months of the year on campus. During this period, most of us, including me, spend a significant amount of time focused on our classes and schoolwork. And while it is important to maintain a focus on our education, we shouldn’t forget about giving back to the state that houses us for the majority of the year — or even longer for in-state students. As most students are aware, Michigan is in a state of economic turmoil. With the state budget suffering massive cutbacks — especially in education — and the highest unemployment rate in the country, students should take a break from their studies and start helping out our community.

Unfortunately, University service organizations are facing a similar plight. Though the Daily reported that MSA intends to increase the monetary funds given to student groups this semester (MSA boosts funding for students orgs this semester, 03/09/2010), many groups still feel constrained. To combat this issue, several community service organizations turned their individual efforts into collaborative service projects. Collaborative initiatives, like K-nection and OneMichigan, bring together multiple University service groups to promote community service and attract volunteers to participate in group projects.

Of course, student volunteers won’t be able to decrease unemployment or fix the budget, but we can still contribute to the improvement of the state and the University community. With only six weeks left until the end of the semester, now more than ever is an opportune time for students to get involved in service projects sponsored by programs like K-nection and OneMichigan.

K-nection, which holds signups for service projects today in Mason Hall, is an initiative started by Do Random Acts of Kindness (more commonly known as DoRAK), Circle K and K-Grams. I’ve been a member of K-Grams over a year. These groups, each of which individually focuses on different aspects of community service, came together in January with the concept of K-nection. According to K-Grams Executive Director, Haley Gire, K-nection is not only a way for the groups to save on the cost of service projects, but also an opportunity to support the community service efforts of other organizations. In an interview with me, Gire noted, “With the increase in recent cuts to school budgets and international catastrophes, it seemed like the best time to start working together.”

This collaborative endeavor is an admirable initiative by the three groups. In a time of financial struggle, I find it rewarding to see groups coming up with creative solutions to their budgetary problems. Individually, these three groups participate in a range of service projects that contribute to the improvement of the University and state. Now that the groups are collaborating for a common cause, their impact on the University community will be even greater.

In addition to the benefit of this collaborative effort, K-nection allows the groups to attract new volunteers and initiate new experiences, which further add to the success of their service projects. Students need to realize the importance of this event and contribute to these community service organizations’ efforts to help the University and the state. More students must recognize this potential and get involved.

But K-nection is not the only organization on campus that focuses on collaborative service projects. On Apr. 9, OneMichigan plans to hold a day honoring community service on the Diag. With over 40 participating organizations, the day will be devoted to educating and recruiting students to their initiatives. The event will also allow students to learn about the goals and actions of the various community service clubs and organizations on campus. Their attempt to increase the support and awareness of service projects in the community could prove to be extremely important to their progress.

Students should attend and contribute to these events in order to help improve and aid the well-being of the University and the state. We need to make the most of the eight months we are here.

Laura Veith is a senior editorial page editor.

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