Community Involvement in College: Service Matters

How You Spend Your Time is How You Spend Your Life

When I arrived at Houghton College as a first-year student, I had no idea how multifaceted my educational experience would be, but I did cling to a morsel of wisdom that a special mentor shared with me in high school. He told me to always remember that “how you spend your time is how you spend your life.” So simple—yet at least for me, so profound. I knew that it would be easy for me to get caught up in the busyness of coursework and studying (very important things), but I realized the equal importance of participating in service opportunities in this new place that would become my college home.

Enter the Campus Activities Fair, held annually within the first few weeks of the fall semester. By this time, new students are starting to become settled into their exciting new schedule, brimming with classes, chapel, athletic practices, study time, and much-needed movie nights with friends. This is the perfect time for students to discover the multitude of clubs and organizations that Houghton has to offer! On this day, the Van Dyk Lounge in the Campus Center is lined with tables representing each one of Houghton’s over thirty student-run groups, their friendly club members, and a plethora of potential sign-up sheets.

Becoming a Mentor

The day of the fair, I joined several clubs, but one in particular changed my life. Allegany County Outreach (ACO) is the name given to our chapter of the nationwide Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. ACO is a fantastic club that has long been an establishment here at Houghton College. Upon joining the club, Houghton students undergo an orientation process that equips them to be mentors, and soon they are assigned a local “little” to befriend and regularly encourage. Each month, the club hosts what we like to call an ACO Party. During the party, all the “bigs” and “littles” join together for a fun (usually seasonally themed) afternoon of games, crafts, snacks, and lots of laughter!

I cannot overstate how incredible this club is! I have been involved with ACO for almost four years now, and its mission and purpose continually excite and motivate me to commit to this program and give it all that I have to offer. I love how this club stimulates community engagement and builds fruitful and lasting relationships between Houghton students and local families. It has been amazing to see the process of how “bigs” and “littles” grow together as they interact and form friendships.

ACO provides the perfect blend of substance with frolic – providing a greatly appreciated outlet for the kiddos apart from any complex family arrangements and difficulties at school. This is their time to be seen and heard by big kids who know them first and foremost beyond their usual contexts and complications. The club provides a beautiful opportunity for college students to directly impact the community in a lasting way with their actions of love.

The Gift of Making a Difference

I will never forget the many wholesome afternoons spent with these kids, often filled with joyful squeals. I would not have guessed that taking to heart my mentor’s advice would eventually lead me to a place of mentoring others, but I have come to see this as a wonderful gift. Time spent investing in the lives of children builds into a lifetime devoted to the well-being of the future.

Here at Houghton, I have many opportunities to help develop my own future and impact the futures of those around me. I love knowing that in spending my time investing in the lives of these special young people, any small positive impact I make has the potential to touch lifetimes that have yet to come. I am so grateful to have found this amazing program, with such amazing people, in such an amazing place. Our choices matter. When how we spend our time is how we spend our lives, it is a blessing to be surrounded by a community with strong values and outreach programs designed to promote learning, growth, and service.

Community Service Matters

Anna Hardiman is a current senior at Houghton College. She is a double major in environmental biology and intercultural studies, with a minor in psychology. In addition to this, she is a member of the Houghton Cross Country and Track and Field teams.