Kernodle Center’s Get on the Bus Initiative encourages students to volunteer in the community

Students can volunteer with local organizations in the Get on the Bus effort through Nov. 8.

The Kernodle Center is providing an easy way to volunteer with Get on the Bus, a program where the Elon BioBus takes students to one of Elon’s community partners for an afternoon.

Get on the Bus runs from 3 to 6 p.m. mosts Friday afternoons through Nov. 9. Students can either register beforehand or show up at the bus stop to sign up. The BioBus picks students up at the stop in front of the library, drops them off at the volunteer location and returns them to campus in the evening. Student-workers in the Kernodle Center accompany students on these experiences.

Get on the Bus offers an introduction to volunteering at Elon, especially for first-year students who are new to campus and to the larger Alamance County area, said Kyle Anderson, Assistant Director of Student Community Engagement Programs in the Kernodle Center. Students don’t have to worry about transportation, which can be a barrier to volunteering.

“If you don’t have a car it’s hard to go to places and especially with our community, downtown Burlington, while it isn’t that far away, can be far away if you don’t have a car or a friend with a car that can drive you there,” Anderson says.

Even though Elon is close to Burlington, it can sometimes feel as if the campus is separated from the larger community. Students can get stuck in the “Elon Bubble”, Anderson says.

The program offers a short-term volunteer experience for Elon students.

“We argue at our office that as a student, you’re here likely for four years, and you’re a member of this community so we push students to get to know that community,” he says. “Volunteering can be a really helpful way to do that.”

Talia Gallo ‘22, a service ambassador for the Kernodle Center, echoes this sentiment.

“We live in Alamance County when we’re at school here, so I think it’s important that we’re engaged with them and we’re helping the community that we live in,” Gallo says.

Volunteering can also bring local and national social issues into perspective and allow students to hear different viewpoints.

“I think getting to know people in the community is really valuable, just to hear different perspectives and different viewpoints,” Anderson says. “You can, I think have those conversations on campus, but it can become more real when you’re talking to somebody at a non-profit or building a relationship with somebody who maybe is struggling through homelessness, for example.”

On Friday, Sept. 20, students who signed up for Get on the Bus volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Burlington. Elon students hung out with kids in the after-school program, talking and playing games with them for a few hours.

This experience with Get on the Bus helped introduce Elon students to the Boys and Girls Club. Being in groups can make both Elon students and the younger students feel more at ease around each other, says Lexi Lombardi ‘20, the Links coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club at Elon Volunteers.

“It just breaks down the barrier and it makes it easier for Elon kids to feel more comfortable and the Boys and Girls Club kids to feel more comfortable,” Lombardi says.

Get on the Bus is an entryway to volunteering and to learning more about Elon’s community partners, and students can continue to volunteer on their own after the program is over. The BioBus continues to drive through routes with different volunteering locations throughout the year.

“Our ultimate hope is that folks will want to get more deeply engaged, whether they’re in the first year or throughout their four years here and this can be sort of an initial sort of exposure to that kind of experience,” Anderson says.

The next Get on the Bus trips are on Oct. 25 and Nov. 8.