By Lauren Clark
A glowing laptop screen illuminates the furrowed brow of a student. After spending a good deal of time in Athens, she has furthered herself intellectually by attending classes, studying and being the best pupil she could possibly be. Yet, her sparse résumé says otherwise. The white, blank space just underneath “Involvements” stares right back at her. Where can she find the time and place to volunteer and gain experience to separate her from the rest of the applicants once she enters the real world? Well, all she needs to do is look to the great outdoors of Athens.
Bear Hollow Zoo
Look past the sorority houses off of Milledge Avenue to find the real wildlife: bears, owls and gators, oh my. This outdoor zoo is home to rehabilitated animals native to Georgia. Each exhibit is home to a rescued animal who can no longer survive on its own. Volunteers are needed to maintain the landscaping, feedings and general cleanliness of the animals’ homes. Clint Murphy, project organizer of Bear Hollow Zoo, expresses the importance of caring for the wildlife, “The animals have to be fed regardless of the weather or what football game is going on.” When students aren’t clapping for their favorite mascot, they could lend those hands to a greater cause.
Near Riverbend, students will find a greenhouse that encloses plants grown and raised by members of the horticulture club. Once fully matured, the volunteers host a plant sell. Students are involved from sapling to receipt. They learn how to not only nourish plants, but how to sell a product. After logging a number of hours, participants are granted admittance to trips to go see natural wonders, such as Yosemite National Park or Calloway Gardens. Horticulture Club Vice President Malone Thomason claims it can be so much more than the trips saying, “Being a part of Horticulture Club enhanced my knowledge of not only horticulture, but interpersonal relationships.”
Youth Soccer Coach
Working in the outdoors doesn’t always have to be work. Instead, play a game of soccer with the children of Athens-Clarke County. Take a wide open soccer field, a whistle and a group of children and suddenly you have the workings of a real team. A volunteer coach doesn’t have to lead the team to the World Cup - they simply have to teach the kids the value of teamwork, ensure their safety and cheer the little athletes on. And with some training to the coaches themselves, the soccer players may even learn how to kick the ball.
Suit up for battle in long pants, gloves and some clippers. The Weed Warriors are an organization that combat non-native invasive plants along Birchmore Trail that winds through Memorial Park. As a grounds that takes pride in the plants that originated here in Georgia, it is vital that the intruding plant population is removed in order for the desired species to flourish. This award-winning organization is looking for others to join their fight. Think of how awesome it would be to add “warrior” to a resume.
Sandy Creek Nature Trail Guide
When you’re lost on what to do with your time, give others directions. It’s a simple process to become a trail guide at Sandy Creek Park. Volunteers lead groups of children through wooded trails while educating them on nature-related subjects. Wielding a handbook and a granola bar, you can show the kids examples of what will be taught in the lesson so that they learn hands-on. Become a teacher and student as you learn more about the environment around you.