Ana received the Outstanding Volunteer Service Award for the Youth/Young Adult category at the 2021 Spirit of NH Awards for her service with the Meelia Center for Community Engagement at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

During her time as a student at St. Anselm and volunteering with the Meelia Center, she’s worked with students, community members, and peers to explore ways to address economic, digital, and racial inequities in education while increasing access to educational resources and college for Manchester students. We followed up with Ana this month– read on to learn more about her experiences with and perspectives on volunteering!

How has volunteering factored into your life up to this point?  

Volunteering has not only factored into my life but defined who I am. Growing up, my family always emphasized the importance of valuing your time and seeking to use it to walk with and support those around you as they strive toward their full potential. 

How has your perception of the value of volunteering evolved over the years?  

My perception of the value of volunteering has evolved as it has become my choice whether or not to continue with volunteering now that I have reached young adulthood. While I had a vague appreciation for the importance of volunteering as a kid and then as a teenager, it was not until I decided to volunteer that I fully grasped the love communicated by and through volunteering. I wholeheartedly believe that the time that I have spent with others has been what allowed me to push through challenges and insecurities.

Where would you say that you get your energy and enthusiasm for volunteering? 

I find volunteering self-sustaining. Regardless of what kind of day I am having, when I walk away from a volunteering opportunity, I always have a new mindset and appreciation for the opportunities I have had, and how much good there is in this world. 

What is some advice you could give to people who want to start volunteering during their college experience but don’t know where to start?  

The advice I would give to someone who wants to start volunteering is to dive in headfirst, but make sure you are aware of your own impact. Volunteering is truly the gift that keeps on giving. It heightens your awareness and pushes you to be the best version of yourself for those around you. But as a socially responsible individual, you also need to be able to reflect and recognize where you may have caused harm despite having good intentions.  

Looking back, what aspect/moment of volunteering had the greatest impact on you? What stands out to you about the experience?  

The aspect of volunteering that has the greatest impact on me is when the high school students I work with take the small moments when we are together to confide in me. From the small victories to devastating news, it is moving to know how much trust these students have in me to be vulnerable with their feelings and emotions. 

Have you participated in any new/different volunteer activities since we last spoke? 

Since we last spoke, I have also joined campus efforts to raise money for cancer research through Saint Anselm College’s Relay for Life, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. And I had the opportunity to direct traffic during the local spring half marathon. Both of which were wonderful! 

What do you find most rewarding about being a volunteer?  

For me, the most rewarding part of being a volunteer is to see the individuals who had seemed disinterested take the initiative and feel safe enough to embrace their passions. 

Do you have any favorite volunteering stories that you are willing to share with us?  

A new favorite volunteering story of mine was just a few weeks back when I was directing traffic for the Manchester half marathon; being able to see and interact with so many members of the local community was heartwarming. As road races often do, there was some frustration with roads being closed, but once the runners came through the course, everyone stopped what they were doing to support the runners, especially those who were struggling in a heartwarming moment. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience? 

Thank you all so much for the work that you do for your communities! 

Check out Ana’s awardee video from the 2021 Spirit of NH Awards below: