Social justice panel to debate

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Sarah Ryniker

Tonight, students and faculty will gather in the Russell Union to discuss important issues ranging from foster care, to poverty, to human trafficking and immigration.

The event will be tonight at 6 p.m. in the RU, room 2044, where a social justice panel organized by the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement will talk about the issues that affect the nation.

“We will give a brief explanation of our social justice issue—mine is about homelessness in a college community—and then each panelist will be asked a series of questions,” Alayna Baer, senior multimedia communication major and panelist for Habitat for Humanity, said.

The panel will be composed of four teachers and two student community liaisons that represent two nonprofit organizations in the Statesboro community, Joseph Home for Boys and Habitat for Humanity.

“I chose the members of the panel for all different reasons,” Beth Anne Mathis, graduate assistant in the OSLCE, said. “I sought out several of them personally because they were really passionate about their causes.”

“I started volunteering when I participated in BUILD the summer before my freshman year, and since then, I have wanted to spread awareness of issues and educate students,” Baer said.

The reasons behind holding a panel is related to how little society understands important these important issues, Mathis said.

“Some issues are misunderstood and misrepresented,” Mathis said. “Our goal is to educate students about how they affect us because they really do.”

“Volunteering is not just picking up trash and helping out in nursing homes. It can be anything—even just hanging out at the boys home—that makes a difference,” Joel Wituka, senior marketing and management major and community liaison for the Joseph Home for Boys, said.

“It’s very important to be part of an organization that you support. There aren’t a lot of males to begin with (in the OSLCE), and a lot of the boys need mentors or role models,” Wituka said.

“Students should volunteer because it not only benefits the people they are helping but can give the students insight into a way of life that’s not their own,” Carrie West, sophomore early childcare education and community volunteer, said.

Before a student volunteers, he or she should determine what area of service he is interested in.

“Students who want to volunteer should think about what they find important and what their interests are. Everyone has different interests, but there are hundreds of opportunities,” Wituka said.

The main goal of the panel is to bring awareness of these issues to students on a broader basis.

“We haven’t talked about this on an international level,” Mathis said.

At the end of the panel, Dr. Todd Deal, director of the OSLCE, will moderate a question and reflection period for students, Mathis said.

“We hope that students can find something to be passionate about and find out more ways to be involved,” Mathis said.

Perceived notions of volunteer organizations can be incorrect.

“A lot of people who need volunteers aren’t asking for your money or your donations. All they are asking for is a little bit of your time, and if you’re lucky, someone to listen to them,” West said.

Wituka said, “I have a strong belief that if you have opportunity, you have a responsibility and an obligation to serve.”