My friends and I often joke that the official start of the holiday season is when Starbucks starts serving drinks in those red winter-themed paper cups. Well, it's not just the commercial holiday season staring us in the face, it's also the season of volunteering.

Many Americans use the holidays as a reminder that it's time for them to make their annual charitable donations–whether those be money, clothing and food, or even their own time. As this recent story (“Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities To Show Your Gratitude“) from the Huffington Post shows, there are no shortage of volunteer opportunities for those who want to make a difference.

At the Draper Center for Community Partnerships we couldn't be happier when any student makes the decision to volunteer their time and effort to making our local communities and this world a better place. But what if you're interested in something more?

Our student-run projects and faculty-led courses confront change from a richer and more complex place than “volunteerism.” We try to find ways for students to become immersed in a meaningful social issue and then find preparation and training to participate in a collaborative and sustainable effort for change.

We do that through partnerships with local change-makers, mutually-beneficial relationships between our campus and our communities that focus on “training, experience, and reflection.” As we do the work of community engagement we nurture your ability to integrate yourself into a network of others who are making a difference everyday.

We hope you find time during this holiday season to give of yourself to the benefit of those less fortunate. I know I'll be volunteering at a soup kitchen to do just that. As the fall semester comes to a close, however, we also hope you'll come visit us in Smith Campus Center 228 to explore the possibilities of making a change in other ways as well.