With nearly 35,000 hours of community service under their collective belts, it’s clear that giving back to the community is a priority for WPI students, and that they’re dedicated to making a difference even before graduation. In honor of Community Service Month, three students who are currently volunteering at a variety of organizations share how their experiences have impacted them and why the work is such a priority in their lives.
Amanda Toledo Barrios ’20, Aerospace Engineering
Amanda’s work at African Community Education (ACE) in Worcester doesn’t just help her build invaluable teaching, social, and critical thinking skills needed for her future career—it also allows her to see the direct impact of her contributions, making the experience even more valuable. As a STEM and English teaching assistant, she works with middle school and high school students to improve their skills. “Since not every person learns in the same way, I’m always coming up with new methods of teaching a subject in order to accommodate the learner,” she says, explaining that she’ll be able to use those critical thinking and problem-solving skills when tackling engineering challenges in the future.
A particular experience that has stuck with Amanda is when she met two young girls who had just arrived in America and spoke only Swahili. Over the course of six months studying at ACE, they had progressed from communicating through drawings to fully written and spoken English sentences. “Experiences like these, where I see my hard work help others, are what keep me coming back.”
David Goodrich ’17, Electrical & Computer Engineering
As an assistant scoutmaster and den leader for Boy Scout Troop 54 and Cub Scout Pack 54, David is able to pass on knowledge and skills he learned during his own experience as a Boy Scout, something he finds rewarding. “It’s a lot of fun to work with scouts the way my leaders worked with me when I was going through the scout program,” he says. He teaches the scouts such skills as gear packing, knot tying, first aid, and cooking, and also helps them carry out the various programs they plan. The scouts range in age from 6 to 10 in Pack 54, and 10 to 17 in Troop 54, giving him a chance to test his skills at adapting the programs and activities to each audience.
David also knows that his volunteer work with the Boy Scouts will be invaluable when it comes to life after graduation. “It’s helped improve my teaching and leadership skills," he says, "so once I become one of the more experienced people at a company, I’ll be better accustomed to training and leading others.”
Toni Joy ’19, Industrial Engineering and Mathematical Sciences
Through her community service work, Toni realizes she has the ability to make change through even the smallest acts of kindness, something she aims to share with others whenever she can. As a sister of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, she has had the opportunity to regularly volunteer with several organizations, including the Mustard Seed and Autism Speaks, but the one that means the most to her is Colleges Against Cancer. Losing her mother to pancreatic cancer is the reason she wanted to join CAC, and ultimately pursue a career in healthcare. She currently serves as Spirit Chair to help fundraise on campus, spread awareness, and plan ceremonies at Relay for Life; she was also recently elected to the executive board as Relay for Life coordinator for next year.
“I have never felt more wholesome than when I perform community service, and am able to see just how much of an impact a small action can make,” Toni says, explaining that little things during her community service hours—conversations at the soup kitchen, interactions with those who have been affected by cancer—keep her going and keep her passionate about her work. “Whenever I’m feeling stressed, participating in community service reminds me of what’s actually important: finding time to help others no matter what ... and being grateful for the opportunities that I have in my own life.”