Meris Gunderson works throughout the community to serve others. She embodies the spirit and diligence of a student leader in service learning.
Some of her service involved working with special needs students. Every Friday, she makes the time to work with children with disabilities. She also works at the Veteran’s Administration (VA) nursing home every Friday. Meris especially enjoys her work at the VA nursing home. Like all of us, she has grandparents, but what separates her is the fact that her grandparents are blind. Through her relationship with them, she can communicate with people in ways that the average student cannot. Her experience also comes especially in hand with Derek, a disabled student who is blind. She can work with him by reading in braille, and she knows what activities to do to stimulate his other sentences. He is normally very shy but he always speaks and is happy around her. Because Meris is so good at working with Derek, the other students seem to draw to her for attention. She treats them all as if they don’t have their disabilities.
Other volunteers admire her and try to learn from her; they want to learn new ways of communication to work with the students. They see how rewarding it is for Meris to connect and help make them happy. In addition, the residents of the nursing home have a special connection because Meris can communicate with those that other volunteers cannot. Meris is not shy and gets the elders talking. They are so funny to listen to and she seems to bring out the best in them.
Along with her dedication, Meris is patient and kind. Sometimes when the special needs students are not able to do something, it gets frustrating. Other volunteers try to work with them but sometimes don’t know how. Meris steps in and truly reaches out to the kids. They sense her genuine concern and empathy. She definitely seems to connect with everyone she meets. Meris is also consistent and dependable. When she is tired, she still shows up to her volunteer assignment. One day, she received personal news that her grandmother was hospitalized and her family needed to leave to go out of state immediately. Meris did not want to let her child down and not attend her session; she had to be convinced to go back home to her family.
Meris displays all the traits of a good volunteer. Her community is a better place because of her service. It would benefit all students to use her as an example and become more involved. They will see what a rewarding experience community service can be, and in the end, they will become better people.