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Participating in a Club

By G. Jayashanker

Why I Joined

I decided to join the Students for Social Responsibility club at my college when I was a sophomore. It was a challenging position that I enjoyed for two years before graduation. I chose to participate in the club because I felt that the campus I was on was not active enough in social change movements. The main area of campus was filled with advertising from companies and flyers for religious club activities, but there was not much relating to student activism. I felt that it would be a good opportunity for me to develop some leadership skills and to focus some of my free time on improving the community. I learned that our graduate program had a chapter, but it turned out that it was largely defunct. Some friends and I decided to revive the chapter, and the club was reborn on our campus. I became the vice president.

What I Did

I believe the experience was valuable to me because it taught me to be disciplined during college. I was forced to carve out time to dedicate to the organization. Some of the tasks I was involved in included:

  • Creating and managing a membership list
  • Organizing community service events like cleaning up parks and serving food at soup kitchens
  • Managing finances
  • Developing fund-raising campaigns for numerous causes we believed in
  • Manning tables on campus to recruit new members

What I Learned

I learned quickly how to balance my studies with the needs of the club. I even started building out a network of other club leaders on campus.

My experiences also taught me about some of the nuts and bolts of finance and fund-raising, how money is transferred and raised. I picked up valuable business skills. I soon found out the importance of developing personal relationships (being friendly and making small talk) in getting people on board. I discovered that I needed to depend on others for key tasks and that they actually enjoyed having this responsibility, knowing what they were doing was important to the organization.

It definitely wasn't all easy. I had to deal with flaky members and unresponsive clients. I realized that free food got students to show up at meetings, but students only in it for the free food could be a drag on the group dynamic. We wasted time on many occasions developing structures and ideas that never worked. But that's part of the process and makes your club better going forward.

These are all lessons that I've applied outside of college because they were ultimately situations I'd face in the real world. This practical learning is hard to get in the classroom. The club essentially introduced me into the real-world experience of running a non-profit.

Learning Outside the Classroom

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