It all started with a school assignment. Back in August of 2013, I was in my first quarter for veterinary technology at Globe University-Wausau campus. One of the introductory classes gave us an assignment: volunteer just four hours at a humane society. That was it, simple enough. Most people did their time, enjoyed the experience, and that was the end of it. For me, however, it was the beginning of a truly amazing chapter of my life.
I moved to the Clark County area about five years ago to get more experience in the veterinary medical field in a rural setting. The whole time living here, I have been telling my family, my friends and myself that I would like to start volunteering at the Clark County Humane Society. I mean, I have honestly lived minutes from the place the entire time. Unfortunately, I have a habit of getting very comfortable with the status quo and rationalized that I just did not have time. So when I called to set up my appointment, I told myself no more excuses, and asked to be put on as a regular volunteer.
I am a dog person and was looking forward to the chance to work more with them, but all they had at that time was Friday mornings cleaning cats. Cats. But I took it as a sign. The universe was telling me, “Ok, you know your strengths—here’s a chance to become more comfortable with something else.”
I believe in self-improvement, and always look for ways to stretch myself. For example, when I first graduated from high school, I was shy. I wanted to gain more confidence talking to others. I thought that if I got a job at a movie theater, it would give me lots of customer service practice. I was right—it definitely did that! It helped, though, and seven years later I was an assistant manager at the theater. Cleaning cats is another step on my journey of self-improvement.
Self-improvement and volunteering is not new to me. I have volunteered often in my past, doing things like escorting people to church, helping at nursing homes, and various youth works projects. These opportunities were great, but I would often do it for a month or so and lose my enthusiasm. It turns out it is all about finding your niche. It is a great feeling to give back to your community, but what is really going to keep you committed is doing something that speaks to you. My work at the humane society speaks to me, and I love that. I feel like I am making a difference, and I am doing something that I really enjoy.
The icing on the cake, though, was when the shelter asked me to pick up more shifts (some with the dogs, yay!) and become a part-time employee. This was completely unexpected, but shows that volunteering can pay off in many surprising ways. Today, I am doing something I am really passionate about and getting paid for it, which is awesome. I am able to work more with the animals to help improve their lives at the shelter and make them more adoptable, among other things. I am able to contribute ideas, and the shelter takes them seriously, so I have even more opportunities to help the animals I care about.
The take-aways of my story are many.
First, don’t be afraid to act when the opportunities to spice things up arise, even if you are comfortable in life.
Second, remember, we are all meant to do something meaningful, so look for the chance to do that. When that happens, take full advantage—you won’t regret it.
Third, volunteering is truly the simplest gift you can give your community. The key is to find something that really sparks your interest.
And last, don’t be afraid to shop around and try new things. You never know where a chance to volunteer may lead you and the doors that may open.
By April Schulz, student ambassador in the veterinary technology program