SJVC Fresno’s aircraft mechanic students step up to help local community

by Nyla on January 11, 2019 · 9:00 am

Until just a couple of months ago, many Aviation Maintenance Technology students at the Aviation campus in Fresno had never been part of a community volunteer effort. “They have not had the experience of helping strangers,” says James Montague, Academic Coach. “They haven’t really considered it. Why help somebody I don’t even know?”

They are finding that answer first-hand.

Volunteerism is a new idea that is gaining momentum on the Fresno Aviation campus as staff, faculty and students begin a relationship with Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. Once a month, volunteers meet at Habitat’s ReStore in Clovis to plan their next mission to provide those in need with inexpensive home repairs and supplies, as well as support bigger community service projects.

“We’ve been helping out at ReStore, where we take old items like ceiling fans and motors and refurbish them to sell or recycle,” says James. “We are also looking into doing random acts of kindness like paint someone’s house, mow lawns and mend fences to help them get in compliance with neighborhood rules.”

Vicky Torres, First Contact/Learning Resource Coordinator/Financial Aid/Test Proctor at the Aviation campus, was the first to come up with the idea for students to get involved. “I mainly wanted for our students to get out there into the community under the SJVC Aviation name,” she says. “I noticed other (SJVC) campuses and their involvement with the community, and I wanted the Fresno Aviation campus to be right up there with those that serve.”

Word is getting around campus that there is an opportunity for students to help the community and perhaps take that service mentality with them out into the world. “Having them think about what they can do outside themselves will make them feel good and give them a sense of community spirit,” says James. It also gives students an action-oriented service they can add to their resumes.

The nature of their service requires some skill, a little patience, teamwork and usually some muscle. “The first month, we did a bunch of work shifting lots of heavy materials to another location,” says James. “We always get more work done than they thought we would. Each time we have gone to volunteer has been extremely positive and we’re always greeted with appreciation from the employees.”

Colin Doyle is an Aviation student who graduates this month and was a first-time volunteer from the campus. “What I got from volunteering was a sense of gratuity for all that Habitat for Humanity does for the community. This experience will help me in my career as far as reaching out and helping and/or asking for help.” Everybody needs a helping hand every now and then.

The campus is buzzing about this do-good and feel-good effort. It’s creating some interest, but so many students are already time-stressed. “A lot of our students have lots of responsibilities already,” says James. “They have families or work part-time, so don’t really think about the potential of giving back.”

Fliers inviting participation in volunteer efforts are posted around the campus, and James does a lot of one-on-one recruitment. The most powerful persuasion is word-of-mouth and the pressure students can put on each other to pull together.

But students are finding an unexpected incentive to set aside some volunteer time. “The highlight of the experience was getting to help out while also being surrounded by colleagues,” says Colin, who is eager to repeat the experience.

“The most important part is the comradery that is formed between those who volunteer,” agrees James. “It has helped with the feeling of community on campus and has even improved the academic participation in some students. There will be lots more to come from the partnership of the Aviation campus with Habitat for Humanity.”

Vicky shares that vision. “I hope that, in the future, we can continue with Habitat for Humanity, as well as other organizations. I’m excited for Aviation and all the possibilities these doors will open for us!”

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