“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
When we have to do a presentation, many of us get wrapped up in the actual content of the presentation versus its overall purpose. I, myself, was guilty of this when I was asked to present at Castleton Engaged! It was not until I was standing in front of over 100 people in the middle of sharing my story about Giving Tuesday that the sole purpose of my presentation came back to mind; to spread awareness of community engagement.
What is community engagement, anyway? According to the Castleton students I spoke with at this event, community engagement is when a group of people join together to form a connection to better a community. To me, community engagement is when people help others in need. A variety of community engagement opportunities were discussed at Castleton Engaged!, which helped open my eyes (even while anxiously awaiting my presentation) to the wide range of topics it covers.
One common misconception that I have noticed around campus is that people think community engagement is just community service, however, that is not necessarily the case. I hope my presentation helped the members of the audience realize that community engagement is much broader than only community service. When it comes to Giving Tuesday, it was not only a day dedicated towards giving to those less fortunate, the day also asked alumni and donors for their continued support of students and scholarships. These activities are community engagement because they better the lives of others. Community engagement can be anything from volunteering at a local organization to researching a topic and finding results to improve the community.
That being said, nobody really cared about the logistics of the event as I had originally planned to focus on – they cared about the outcome the event created. When I shared the story of a prospective student who gave the gloves off of her hands on Giving Tuesday, people really seemed to understand that the day had became more than any of us could have ever imagined. Giving Tuesday was larger than any of us – it was the Castleton community forming together to change the lives of others in need.
Overall, I hope all of the presentations helped the attendees of Castleton Engaged! grasp a better understanding of what community engagement actually is. It was truly an honor to be asked to present at this event; I am hopeful that it has raised awareness and created hype on campus that encourages others to get involved and participate in even more community engagement.