by Libby Guss, ’18 (Spanish and Social Work, Mankato; Minn.)
I have lived in Mankato for the past seventeen years. It is the community that raised me and helped shape me into who I am today. Volunteering around the city is not something that I feel obligated to do, rather, it is something I am proud and very happy to do.
Each week, I spend about seven hours volunteering at different places. While two of the places do tie in strongly with my majors, Spanish and Social Work, the other is a form of stress relief for me: “kitten therapy.” The Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society (BENCHS) is our regional no-kill animal shelter. Volunteering at BENCHS is how I start every Sunday. There, I clean the cat “condos,” feed the cats, give them fresh water, and provide them with the attention they deserve. I may be allergic to cats, but this does not stop me from cuddling with five kittens at once. I would recommend volunteering at BENCHS to any student who wants to be a part of their community while also de-stressing from the demands of college.
One of the other places I volunteer is the local hospital, part of the Mayo Clinic Health System. There, I am a part of STEP Force, which stands for Speedy Transport & Escort Pool. During my shifts each week, I receive calls to discharge patients, escort patients, deliver flowers, move wheelchairs, and more. Some of the people I meet call the hospital their second home due to the frequency of their visits, while others tell me that they haven’t been in a hospital for an extended period of time since they were born. Not every person I meet is in the hospital for unfortunate circumstances, however. In fact, many of the people I discharge are new mothers and their families. Young children always brighten up my day, too, such as one little girl who told me that her new sibling’s official name is “Baby Brother,” and that that is all he will ever be. My work at the hospital is never extremely challenging but it is always incredibly rewarding. I have the opportunity to interact with so many different people from a wide variety of backgrounds, each with a different story to tell. It feels like its own world, one where everyone is welcome but no one really wants to visit. Whenever I can put a smile on a patient’s face, I consider the day very successful.
My favorite organization by far to volunteer for is the YMCA’s Brother/Sister Program. Through it, I mentor a young girl in the community who comes from a background that does not allow her to have the same opportunities many other children have. She is one of the kindest, smartest, and funniest people I know. I look forward to every time we meet and spend a large portion of my free time planning activities for us to do. She loves animals and has told me she wants to either be a veterinarian, pet shop owner, doctor, or film maker when she grows up. I suggested she just be a “Businefilmternarian.” One activity that we have been working on is reading the Harry Potter series together in attempts to raise her reading level. She has fallen in love with the story of Harry. She told me that after we finish each book, we need to watch the corresponding movie and then talk about all the similarities and differences between them. I cannot put into words how proud she makes me with these quick comments she throws out all the time. Being a mentor with this program has been an invaluable experience for me. I have grown so much as a leader and as a person in general due to this program. Having my little sister in my life and hearing about her day to day activities and her dreams and aspirations motivates me to do so much more in my own life. In fact, it was because of the Brother/Sister Program that I found out that I can turn all of these passions of mine into an actual career as a Social Worker.
It is my belief that everyone has the right to and deserves happiness. My mission is to help as many people as I can to find or rediscover happiness in their lives through whatever means necessary. With the help of the Honors Program and my volunteering experiences, I know that I will be able to set myself apart in the future and truly make a difference in someone’s life.