College Student Uses Dance to Inspire Others to Give Back

Daily Point of Light # 6083 Sep 7, 2017
Jacob Zawoysky holds a check for $222,491 collected at the end of Dance Marathon 2017./Courtesy Jacob Zawoysky

Jacob Zawoysky never considered himself an especially great dancer but that didn’t stop him from signing on for a 12-hour dance marathon to raise money for sick kids. His volunteer service with Georgia College Miracle, the largest student-led fundraiser on the Georgia College & State University campus, grew from raising funds and dancing into a leadership role that helped transform the marathon into a year-long movement to make miracles.  He served as executive director during his senior year, helping to inspire 500 students to make miracles. Since 2005, Georgia College Miracle has raised more than $690,598.68 for Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health.

Describe your volunteer role with the Georgia College Miracle?

I served on the Executive Board of Georgia College Miracle for 3 years. My sophomore year, I was Director of Alumni Relations. My junior year, I was the Director of External Relations. And my senior year, I was the Executive Director. I ended volunteering more than 600 hours in those 3 years to Children’s Miracle Network.

Why is it important to you to support your community in this way?

Because at the end of the day, your community is your home and should be treated with respect, love and care. Ever impact, every dollar donated, every hour volunteered allows others to feel safe and protected. Before I joined Georgia College Miracle, I visited the Children’s Hospital. I spent hours playing in the game room with these Miracle Kids. We were laughing, smiling, and having an awesome time. I realized that just by taking time out of my day to play a video game with a Miracle Kid, I was helping him feel like a regular kid again. He wasn’t thinking about his sickness, but thinking about the support he was getting from a complete stranger. It was that moment that allowed me to see that supporting your community could go so much farther than just donating.

Jacob (bottom row, left) and his fellow volunteers canvassing the campus of Georgia College to collect funds for Georgia College Miracle./Courtesy Jacob Zawoysky

What’s the most challenging aspect of your volunteer service?

It was trying to get students to buy into and join Dance Marathon. At first glance, Dance Marathon may just seem like a 12-hour dance event on a Saturday. We knew we had to change this culture and treat Dance Marathon as a celebration. It was so much more than just a one-day dance event, it was a 365-day movement. We started focusing less on the dance aspect, and more on the Miracle Kids. We focused less on asking people for money, and focused more on asking people to make miracles with us. We allowed the students to feel like they were a part of something bigger than themselves.

Why do you think it’s important for college students to give back? 

The bigger question is why shouldn’t students get involved and give back? Why wouldn’t you want to raise money and awareness for important causes? Why wouldn’t you want to be able to impact not just the lives of others, but also your own life? Why wouldn’t you want to grow both intangible and tangible skills? Why wouldn’t you want to become the best version of yourself?

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The smiles. Whether it’s seeing a Miracle Kid smile at Dance Marathon. Seeing a Miracle Family smile while watching their child live a healthy life. Seeing the Executive Board smile when seeing the total reveal at Dance Marathon. Or seeing hundreds of students smile while celebrating the lives of the Miracle Kids at Dance Marathon. Smiles and that pure happiness they bring was the most important thing I wanted to see at the end of this experience.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

Just the incredible impact that you can have on someone’s life. I think it’s hard for us to fully grasp the magnitude of support and hopefulness that we give while volunteering. The moment that you take a minute to step back from it all and realize that you’re impacting others in a positive way, is one of the best feelings in the world. For the longest time I felt that I could never have that type of impact on someone’s life, but through volunteering I have learned that through selflessness I can truly have that impact.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

Just the idea that passion is contagious. I didn’t have a lot of leadership experience when I joined Georgia College Miracle, but I did have a passion for the cause and the motivation to learn. Many people use lack of experience as an excuse not to take action, and that’s a shame. Even when applying for Executive Director, I didn’t have a big strategic plan when interviewing. I simply wanted to turn Dance Marathon into a movement and Georgia College Miracle into a family. The passion that we all shared ultimately helped us reach incredible feats.

Do you want to make a difference in you community like Jacob? Visit All For Good to find local volunteer opportunities.

Jia Gayles