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Students and faculty connect to community groups through Volunteer Fair

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University of North Georgia students may find an organization that matches their passion at the annual Volunteer Fair. More than 30 community organizations will participate in the events on UNG's Gainesville and Oconee campuses.

When Ping Ye joined the mathematics faculty at the University of North Georgia (UNG) in 2016, she had been awarded a Mathematical Association of America (MAA) grant. With it, she was required to reach out to an industry, business or organization and solve problems.

Dr. Andrew Pearl, director of academic engagement at UNG, had a lead for her. He directed her to the annual Volunteer Fair on UNG's Gainesville Campus. At the fair, Ping Ye connected with Boy with a Ball, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping hurting young people thrive by mobilizing at-risk, disengaged youth to become the solution.

"They were really friendly and helpful," she said. "They introduced their programs to our students and provided data to us for the students to analyze. They also took time to meet with the project team members every month."

UNG students analyzed the data and reported their findings on a monthly basis to Boy with a Ball. From there, the project snowballed with the UNG students presenting their research at the MAA conference in 2017. Recently another of Ye's students worked with Boy with a Ball on a separate undergraduate research project.

This story is one example of the effect UNG's Volunteer Fair has on its students.

"The work students do (through volunteer work) can contribute to the public welfare," Pearl said.

But that isn't the only calculable result of students attending the Volunteer Fair and joining a nonprofit's mission.

"Research has suggested that there may be some positive employment outcomes for students who enroll in service-learning courses, including higher starting salaries," Pearl said.

Students, however, first must connect to an organization that matches their passion at the Volunteer Fair.

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University of North Georgia students may find an organization that matches their passion at the annual Volunteer Fair. More than 30 community organizations will participate in the events on UNG's Gainesville and Oconee campuses.

"The purpose is to introduce our student to the different nonprofit community-based organizations making a difference," Pearl said.

A second purpose is it pairs faculty and staff with the organizations for service-learning partnerships, such as Ye's project from two years ago. Pearl explained these collaborations supply the organizations with volunteers and offers students experiences of working in the real world.

Ye agreed.

"The students really understood the textbook material better," Ye said. "It helped them develop their problem-solving and communication skills."

Of course, students experience an unforeseen bonus when volunteering, Pearl said.

"They learn more about themselves and personal values and learn their roles as citizens and come to an understanding about their civic duty," he said.

This year's annual Volunteer Fair will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, in rooms 3110 A and B of the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building. A faculty and staff "preview" hour will be from 10–11 a.m. that same day.

More than 30 community organizations are expected to attend. Some regular groups include the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Family Promise of Hall County, Disability Resource Center and Habitat for Humanity, to name a few. Newcomers will be the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Long Mountain Living History Center and Junior Achievement of Georgia.

Kay Blackstock, executive director of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, said her organization always receives good participation from UNG and its students following the Volunteer Fair.

"Our exposure at the Volunteer Fair plants the seeds with students, faculty and staff," she said. "And when there is an opportunity needed, I feel like the Georgia Mountain Food Bank comes to mind."

UNG's Oconee campus also will host its annual Volunteer Fair from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15, in the Student Resource Center room 522. Approximately 20 community organizations will attend.

For more information about the Volunteer Fair, contact Pearl at andrew.pearl@ung.edu or 678-717-3722 or Dr. Cyndee Perdue Moore, executive director of the Oconee Campus, at Cyndee.moore@ung.edu.

Volunteer Fair

Gainesville Campus
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13; preview hour 10-11 a.m.
Where: Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building, rooms 3110 A and B

Oconee Campus
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15
Where: Student Resource Center, room 522

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