Students volunteer to Make a Difference


On Saturday, Oct. 25 over 800 NMU students served the Marquette area community by raking leaves and doing other yardwork on Make a Difference Day.

The event is organized by Northern Michigan University in an effort to serve area residents as far as Ishpeming, Gwinn, and Skandia with extra physical help when they are unable to complete the work on their own.

“I think it’s wonderful, especially for senior citizens who aren’t able to do it for themselves,” Louise Jean, a Marquette resident who was helped by the event, said.

The NMU Pre-Dental Club helped rake leaves at Jean’s residence. Volunteers from that group said the time spent volunteering was well worth it to see what their actions meant for people like Jean.

“You don’t realize how far something like this goes for some people,” senior Ben Ayotte said. “Just raking a yard moves someone to tears. It’s powerful stuff.”

For some people in Marquette, Make a Difference Day is viewed not only as a blessing, but also as an opportunity to see a kinder side of today’s college students.

“You hear bad stuff about the youth all the time, but you don’t hear about the good stuff that goes on,” said Arleen Herlich of Marquette. “I can’t say enough about these volunteers and everything they do.”

Some students, like sophomore forensic biochemistry major Jen Tweed were joined in the volunteer work by siblings and parents, as it was also Family Weekend at NMU.

“They’re here for the weekend and we do a lot of service projects back home through our church. It seemed like a good idea to ask [if they wanted to participate,]” Tweed said. For some students like junior Chris Schuldt, volunteering at Make a Difference Day involved something other than the usual raking of yards. Schuldt, a secondary education major, worked in the morning with the registration of the event.

“I don’t have an opportunity to actually participate this year due to my job today, so this was my only chance to volunteer,” Schuldt said, as he handed out t-shirts to the volunteers as they flooded into the Peter White Lounge.

This year, three of the groups participating had a little extra incentive to volunteer. The Surgical Tech group, Clinical Lab Sciences group and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) competed against each other to see who could fill the most garbage bags with leaves.

“It really started out with talks in the office,” said Professor Jim Zeigler, the faculty advisor for the NSSLHA group. “We decided to have a contest and the students really picked up on it.”

All three groups’ majors’ faculty are located in the same area in West Science.

Zeigler, who himself used the services of Make a Difference Day after he was injured in a car accident in 2006, proudly showed the Golden Rake, the trophy for the competition, as the NSSLHA group won with over 70 bags of leaves between two different locations.

“We did a lot of good work,” Zeigler said, “But for what the students do really does make a difference.”