Erika Nutt has been a volunteer at the Kansas University Center for Community Outreach (CCO) during the past three years.
Erika Nutt's life was changed forever when she went to Washington, D.C., on alternative spring break two years ago as a Kansas University freshman.
Nutt and a group of KU students spent a week living and volunteering at the Center for Community of Non Violence, the largest homeless shelter in the country. Nutt made many friends among the homeless, and learned valuable lessons regarding their great courage, resiliency and spirit.
Nutt's smile beams as she talks about how the trip transformed her life.
``Volunteering was always something I wanted to do, but it never really was a priority in my life,'' she said. Alternative spring break is the best thing that anyone could ever do. It was the most amazing experience. It completely, completely motivated me to want to volunteer, just because if I don't do it, you can't expect anyone else to.''
Nutt, a KU junior majoring in social welfare, used that trip as a springboard to volunteer with the KU Center for Community Outreach (CCO) during the past three years. The center provides volunteer opportunities for students on campus and throughout the community. Nutt served as coordinator of Youth Student Council her sophomore year, and held the same position this past year with Concerned, Aware and Active Students.
While Nutt was recently appointed to a paid position as co-director of CCO, she will continue to volunteer this summer with the Jubilee Cafe, something she's done since her sophomore year. Nutt also currently volunteers with the Douglas County AIDS Project, and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
Nutt is excited about her new position as co-director of CCO and the opportunity to better people's lives. She strongly believes in the agency's motto -- ``The Power of One Can Make a Difference.'' She has certainly done so since arriving at KU from Minnesota three years ago.
Her experience in Washington, D.C., her freshman year is still vivid in her mind and rich with meaning.
``It was just amazing the friendships that we built in a week with these people,'' Nutt said. ``It was really very, very eye-opening to see how close everyone is to possibly being homeless.''
Nutt had another great experience this past March when she went on alternative spring break to Philadelphia. She and other KU students volunteered at a bilingual middle school in the ``poverty ridden'' inner city.
In addition to alternative spring break, Nutt has many special memories of her time with Youth Student Council and Concerned, Active and Aware Students. As coordinator of Youth Student Council her sophomore year, Nutt helped start student councils in Kennedy and New York schools. Her mission with this program was to build leadership and organizational skills among disadvantaged youth.
She has been on another mission during the past year and a half volunteering with DCAP. Nutt is alarmed at the growing problem of HIV and AIDS.
Nutt is bent on continuing to help with DCAP and CASA, and open up new volunteer possibilities for students as co-director of CCO. She believes strongly in the spirit of volunteerism.