INI Students Volunteer their Time and Efforts to Give Back

November 07, 2011

As if staying on top of their busy schedules isn't enough, some INI students believe that giving back to the community is worth putting in the extra effort. Whether it is participating in local charity, giving back through a company they've worked for, or volunteering for an event, their efforts are truly admirable.

On Friday, November 4, students had the opportunity to participate in the kick-off event for the sixth annual U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive. Organized by the College of Engineering and University Police, participants donated toys and joined in the fun, which included music, food and historical re-enactments.

 Carnegie Mellon is also currently holding the 18th annual canned food drive, which began Monday, October 31 and ends Friday, November 11. This event benefits the non-profit organization the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and students will also be able to join in "Cans Across the Cut," Wednesday, November 9, to add a donation to the long line of cans weaving throughout the Cut.

Some students also find volunteering opportunities outside of Carnegie Mellon. For instance, Amal Krishnan, a student in the INI's Master of Science in Information Security Technology and Management (MSISTM) program, gave back through the company he interned at this past summer: Google. Amal participated in Google Serve, which is an initiative created in 2008 to get employees involved in different community service projects. Some examples included volunteering to clean up areas and holding various workshops.

Some INI students at the Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley campus are also finding ways to give back. The student organization Women@INI (WINI) were recently invited to speak to young girls at Ocala Middle School for a "role model visit" to discuss engineering and science careers. WINI members Natalie Bennett, Luza Jaramillo, Sara Lee, Nandita Rao Narla (WINI outreach chair) and Krystal Ying all participated. Role model visits by WINI members are becoming a tradition, thanks to the efforts of past members who visited schools in the Pittsburgh area to speak with girls about future engineering careers as well as internet safety.

In preparation for the visit, the volunteers attended a role model training session held by Techbridge Girls. Through this session they learned valuable tips and advice on how to effectively communicate with young girls and gathered ideas for age-appropriate computer science projects and icebreakers. The volunteers used methods such as a 'Beat the Clock' activity to teach how to sort algorithms and a 'Color by Number' activity to teach image representation in computers while solving a puzzle.

"The role models helped me by encouraging me to never give up and everything is possible," Ocala Middle School student Berenice said. "They gave us some examples of their own and they helped us!" Student Kenya also added, "At first I wanted to be a simple worker but now I want to try hard to get a good job."

"Outreach, especially encouraging young girls in technology, is one of the core values of WINI," WINI outreach chair Nandita said. "This was a very rewarding and amazing experience for me."

Not only does volunteering positively impact others in your community, but it has personal benefits as well. Making the time to volunteer can give you a greater sense of community and provides you with an empowering feeling of motivation and accomplishment. Volunteering also comes with the opportunity to learn new things, meet new people, and to broaden your career options.

Although working with various time constraints, as almost everyone is, some INI students choose to put in the extra effort and donate the little time that they have.

Pictured above: WINI members talk with girls about science and engineering careers. From left to right:  Natalie Bennett, Sara Lee, Luza Jaramillo, Nandita Rao Narla and Krystal Ying.

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