Get out there

Danette Dooley
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

A recent MUN graduate says there's more to university life than books and bashes: lending a helping hand is good for the soul and the resume

Twenty-three-year-old Samantha White has some advice for first-year students heading to Memorial Univesity this month.

Doing well academically is important, she says.

However, getting involved in the community early into studies is also crucial.

"In your first and second years you really need to get out there. There are so many organizations looking for volunteers and they really need the manpower. And that gives you an opportunity to have these experiences that are priceless," the Goulds native says.

Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

Twenty-three-year-old Samantha White has some advice for first-year students heading to Memorial Univesity this month.

Doing well academically is important, she says.

However, getting involved in the community early into studies is also crucial.

"In your first and second years you really need to get out there. There are so many organizations looking for volunteers and they really need the manpower. And that gives you an opportunity to have these experiences that are priceless," the Goulds native says.

White has many such experiences to look back on.

She graduated in May with a joint honours degree in neuroscience and statistics and has been awarded a two-year scholarship to pursue her master's degree in epidemiology at Dalhousie University.

During her five years at Memorial she offered her time to many causes, such as Sunshine Dreams for Kids.

The non-profit organization fulfils dreams for children across the country challenged by severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.

It's "one of the best feelings in the world," White says, to tell a child their dream is about to become reality.

"There is a little girl in Newfoundland who had a terminal illness and a severe disability. She was in a wheelchair and things were about to get worse. We got to drive (to the child's home community) put on the (Sunshine) bear costume, get some balloons and tell her that she was going to Disney World with her best friend."

During her first semester at Memorial, White began volunteering as a tutor with Students for Literacy.

She stayed with the group her entire five years of study.

It's a needs-based program that operates on a shoestring budget, thanks to a terrific organizing team, White says.

"We train MUN university students to be volunteers. They work with kindergartens in reading circles, new Canadians trying to learn English for the first time, high school dropouts who are trying to get their GED, " White says.

Tent sleep-in

In January she spent 10 days living in a tent at the university library with Danielle Barron.

Barron was also a Students for Literacy volunteer.

The campout was a national effort to raise funds for and promote campus-based student-run literacy groups.

White's other volunteer initiatives included Engineers Without Boarders (EWB) and the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador.

EWB helps reduce world poverty and gives people in developing countries a better life through access to technologies.

While her name appeared on the Dean's list at Memorial, White says she was an average student in high school, hardly an overachiever.

"I think I got into MUN by the skin of my teeth," she says.

Nonetheless, it was always a given in her family that, once you earn your high school diploma, you continue with your studies, she says.

"When you finish high school, the attitude my parents (Joe and Rose White) always took was that you're going on to post-secondary education. And I think that attitude and that type of confidence and encouragement is very helpful."

White's brother, Joey, is a MUN political science student.

When the time came for her to begin university, White says, she was ready to forge ahead in every aspect of university life.

Volunteering helps you make connections and develop skills, she says, adding it also helps you decide where you want to go in life.

"After you volunteer in so many different places, you know if you want to work with kids or if you want to work with seniors, and so on. So, academics is only a small fraction of university life," she says.

After completing her master's degree, White would like to return to this province to work as an epidemiologist.

Ideally, she says, her efforts would be focused on HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and sexual health, particularly as they relate to rural communities.

"Newfoundland is the perfect spot to do that type of work. It's my end goal to come back here and, hopefully, make a difference."

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Dalhousie University, Sunshine Dreams for Kids, Disney World MUN university Students for Literacy AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Goulds

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Dennis
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I met Sam through Student for Literacy. She's a fun, bright girl, who's shown that she loves to help others. Students would do well to follow her example.

  • Dennis
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    I met Sam through Student for Literacy. She's a fun, bright girl, who's shown that she loves to help others. Students would do well to follow her example.