What does community service mean?

By Tiffany Tran

In high school, it meant those hours that students would spend, perhaps volunteering at a race, helping a fundraiser, and/or doing other miscellaneous activities. Throughout the years, I completed hundreds of hours of service. At the events, I often thought “How does this even help the community?” or “Am I really making an impact?” One of the most puzzling questions I had was, “Why are the adults volunteering?”

To me, even though volunteering was fun, and there was a sense of gratification, I didn’t understand why adults and elders, who no longer had any academia-related obligations, continued giving up their time to participate in this type of work. It wasn’t until I graduated high school and started college that I began to understand the complexity of communities and the importance of service and solidarity. 

My first year in college was full of attending fun events, (un)successful study groups, and, most importantly, personal and professional growth. The organizations I joined taught me the value of community, which previously I wouldn’t have been able to describe aside from some generic textbook definition. They also helped me discover my passion and dedication toward organizing and mobilizing people in efforts to promote change and challenge the status quo. 

I volunteered at a variety of events and programs, taking on perhaps more than I should have. In college, nobody signs off the hours or keeps track of the volunteers; it’s not about fulfilling a requirement, it’s about helping the community grow and succeed. I wasn’t questioning the importance of my work anymore and instead look for ways to continue supporting causes I care about.

I’m carrying this positive and curious mindset toward my work with SEARAC, as I want to learn more about the ways in which people can impact communities, specifically through policy. From community service, to school organizing, to nonprofit work, I’ve grown tremendously and look forward to continuing this trend not only during my time with SEARAC, but also the years to come!

Tiffany Tran is SEARAC’s California summer policy intern. She is an incoming second year at UC Berkeley, where she is majoring in economics with a minor in public policy.