Focusing the NationNovember 18, 2008
If passed, President-Elect Barack Obama’s proposed $4,000 college tax credit would have a significant effect on the lives of millions of college-bound students in need of funding for school. With 100 hours of community service as the only stipulation for the money, Obama’s plan would not only make college a never-before-seen possibility for many people, it would also significantly increase the pool of available volunteers in the United States.
With a failing economy and tax cuts, it is more important than ever that social services be provided by nongovernmental organizations with the funds — and now the wo/manpower — to effect change. Young people help fuel the nation’s drive for community service and public activism. As we transition from college students to postgraduates, our focus generally shifts from protests and soup kitchens to mortgages and PTA meetings. Capitalizing on students for volunteer work will be increasingly important if the economy continues to falter and jobs turn from nine-to-five to eight-to-six obligations for a generation of working adults. As a college student and campus community service coordinator who has spent countless hours sifting through endless lists of nonprofit, nongovernmental, and sometimes nonsensical missions, events, drives, and opportunities, I can attest to the fact that choosing one’s volunteering possibilities can be a daunting task.
Narrow down our options. The United States is full of successful nonprofit organizations because we have more problems than there are people willing to take action to solve them. So what would happen if, for an entire calendar year, the nation’s college students pooled their efforts and focused on a single issue? I think it’s worth it to find out. The focus could shift every year in order to increase the number of opportunities available to students and diversify our main sector of influence. I propose that the focus for 2009 be on human trafficking — the fastest-growing underground industry in the world. As a nation with bountiful resources and a newly formed volunteer corps, we should be leading the fight to put an end to sex slavery in the United States and abroad through campus clothing drives for victims, letter-writing campaigns to legislators, and tutoring for the children wrapped up in this terrible and preventable mess. For 2010, maybe the primary focus should be on fighting hunger, curing cancer, or making the world a greener place.
The possibilities are endless, but our problems become more manageable when we work together for a common end. Who knows? Maybe in eight years there will be eight fewer battles to be won.