Rise Up, Lift Your Voice and Stand for What You Believe In

Daily Point of Light # 7475 Jan 26, 2023

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Morgan Welliver. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

Morgan Welliver is a sophomore at the University of Miami where she studies Music Therapy as a classical voice principal with minors in Spanish and Psychology. Her first experience with volunteering was when she was a 6th grade student and part of a group called G-Squared, which has since evolved into VOiCEup Berks where she served as Student Representative with VOiCEup’s Executive Board during high school. During high school, Morgan also served as  part of the Youth Advisory Board within the Youth Volunteer Corps. As a high school senior in 2020, she not only co-founded this movement and created a STAR peer group at her school to discuss matters of race and justice, she also volunteered her time facilitating STAR programs virtually for several groups of youth in other states.  

As part of her high school’s Equity Taskforce, she worked with faculty and staff to encourage open dialogue, increase awareness and understanding, and enhance equity efforts at her school. For the past two summers, she helped to create and run a STAR playground program, teaching the importance of diversity and inclusion to elementary school students through fun but educational activities. In fall 2021, Morgan took her passion for social justice to University of Miami where she joined the DEI and the Multicultural Societies, volunteering to facilitate diversity initiatives on campus, educate others, facilitate dialogue, and increase voter registration.  

Morgan credits her strong support system, including her mother, for the encouragement to start volunteering and for believing  in her ability to spark positive change. 

What inspires you to volunteer?

As our world continues to develop and advance, there is a common misconception that a singular person can’t make a meaningful or impactful difference. I volunteer to disprove this and inspire others to do the same. It is true, perhaps one person can’t change the world, but volunteering is about being a part of a group effort to accomplish something bigger than yourself. As a volunteer, you are part of a unit and that is the small droplet soon to be a ripple effect.

Morgan Welliver is co-founder of Stand Together Against Racism (STAR)./Courtesy Morgan Welliver

Describe your role with STAR 

I am one of the co-founders and members of Stand Together Against Racism, or STAR. This beautiful organization started as a summer series called Community Conversations for Change through VOiCEup Berks in 2020 but rapidly blossomed into what we know as STAR. Our mission is to address racism and injustice in our community through education and dialogue which is initiated, supported, and facilitated by youth. We have a whole new generation continuing this movement, but with many senior members graduating, we are working hard to expand STAR into the collegiate world. 

Another summer volunteer opportunity I was a part of was our STAR library series where we would read a different book each week to the kids with a fun and educational activity that followed. 

I am very active with volunteer activities at the University of Miami. 

I am the Student Life Liaison for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee as part of the Student Government at the University of Miami. In this position, I create projects/initiatives to accomplish over the course of the school year based on the equitable needs of the student body and university. 

I am the Secretary and co-Music Director for Tufaan A Capella, the University of Miami’s only multicultural A Cappella group. Our goal is to embrace and highlight South Asian music encouraging students of all backgrounds to join this welcoming, collaborative, multicultural environment.  

I am a member of the UM Disability Ambassadors where we serve to educate and empower the community about disability and accessibility issues in efforts to make our campus more inclusive. 

I am a member of Alpha Mu (Music Therapy Club) which educates, advocates, and supports the Music Therapy profession. 

I volunteer for Miami Jam Sessions which is a socialization group for neurodiverse teens and young adults and volunteer mentors. 

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

This is probably predictable, but seeing STAR grow so organically has been indescribably rewarding. As I mentioned, there can be negative feelings associated with volunteering when one feels as if they aren’t big enough to make a difference. I would be lying if I said I haven’t had that “Am I doing enough?” internal crisis. Seeing a visible, tangible creation formulated after countless hours of passionate people working so hard is about as rewarding as it gets! The members and adult mentors involved in STAR are a tightly-knit family that looks out into the world with hopes of educating others and inspiring changemakers. Seeing this family grow across the country, and even the world, shows the power of lifting our voices toward what we believe in and that is something everyone needs to experience in life. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer? 

The two biggest take always gained from volunteering are: 

First, being an effective volunteer starts with you believing in yourself. I consider it a privilege to be in a state where I have the option to help others. We all have days where we might be “too busy” or may not want to get out of bed at all, but how you spend your time is a choice. Both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation formed after even one volunteer session is incredible, just try it!

Although volunteering emphasizes giving, giving, and more giving, the irreplaceable  experiences gained as the volunteer are not talked about enough. I have sweated, laughed, and cried countless times throughout my volunteer experience. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing because I can’t imagine what my life would look like or what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t had the opportunity to partake in these volunteer experiences.

STAR’s mission is to address racism and injustice through education and dialogue which is initiated, supported, and facilitated by youth./Courtesy Morgan Welliver

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about? 

I am most excited about our upcoming projects related to growing “STAR on Campus.” Seeing a concept that was started when I was going into my senior year continue to grow, now connected by the schools of our alumni, is a dream come true. 

Why do you think it’s important for others to get involved in their communities?

You never know the true circumstances of anyone around you. If you are lucky enough to have the ability to get involved, why not do it? It’s not a chore, it’s a gift. We as individuals have a responsibility to help the people and situations around us. Engaging with our communities is just one step into an entire network of people that will change the future. 

What do you want people to learn from your story? 

I want my story to show that volunteering can truly change a life. I had always loved helping others but volunteerism created the path I needed to find my voice. Community Conversation for Change was the first place I felt heard and I was unafraid to share what I believed in. Because the cohort involved with this series felt so accepted and inspired to do more, STAR was born and has now surpassed all our expectations regarding success. With that, there are many ways we can grow and improve, but I want my story and STAR’s story to show that monumental outcomes can occur even as a result of the smallest actions. Rise up, lift your voice, and stand up for what you believe in! 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Morgan? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Jarmila Gorman