Meet Amanda Yannarella, a sophomore majoring in Biomedical Engineering from Burlington Township, NJ (Burlington County). This summer, Amanda became a student leader for this year’s Rowan’s First-Year Connection: Volunteerism Program. Today she will share with us her experience in the program and what she’s learned from being a student leader.
Why did you decide to join Rowan’s First-Year Connection program?
“Last year as a freshman, I wanted to get acclimated to campus and wanted to start of my year well by volunteering. I volunteered a lot in high school, too. I was in Key Club, so I did a lot of volunteering then and I wanted to continue here. I was a leader this year because I loved it so much my freshman year. I wanted to do it again and have a positive impact on the incoming first-year students, because that was really important to me.”
What kind of activities did you do?
“We went to the Food Bank of South Jersey and we helped sort all the donations they had into proteins, soups and grains. Two people went into the bakery to bake muffins, so that was really cool. We also helped with the Saint Bernard’s [disaster relief] Project, which is similar to Habitat for Humanity, in which I am also involved in. We went to someone’s house that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy and we helped fix up their house. We did flooring, drywall, spackling and hurricane clips, which is supposed to help the roof stay on with strong winds.
“Then we helped with the Little Owls Preschool at Rowan. We were cleaning their classrooms to prepare for the school year. It took us about two hours, which would have taken all the Little Owl teachers all day. Then we did SAIL Bowling Night; they do activities for adults on the autism spectrum. We had a great time bowling with them and making conversations — just hanging out and having fun, but it was important because I feel like we were making everyone’s day better. I’m not good at bowling, but still had a good time.”
What was your favorite activity?
“The Saint Bernard’s Project was my favorite because you learn skills that I feel you can transfer to your own house. Now I know how to put in hardwood flooring, and that’s pretty cool.”
What knowledge or skills have you developed through this program?
“When we went to the food bank [someone] told us the amount of food we sorted, which was a lot, was between 2,000 to 5,000 pounds. The guy was like, ‘Congratulations guys, you really helped us out, but there are still families going to bed hungry tonight. And even though we worked so hard there is still a lot of work to be done.’ Then you’re like, ‘Wait what? I just did this whole work and you’re telling me that there’s more?’ It’s kind of eye opening. That is why I like doing stuff like that because you get impacted and it’s good to get reminded with that kind of stuff. And as a leader I learned leadership skills, like learning to communicate. I use to hate talking. I was so quiet when I was younger, but this actually helped me get more comfortable talking to bigger groups of people.”
What did being a leader for Rowan’s First-Year Connection program mean to you?
“I liked being able to have an impact on incoming students and setting them off into a positive way. We were focusing on the volunteering stuff all week and the importance of that, but we were also getting them ready for campus. And it just meant a lot to get that kind of leadership experience under my belt.”
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Iridian Gonzalez, senior journalism major