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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

S2S Interview with Laura Kate Gamble

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FORMER PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLAR TALKS ABOUT HOW SHE GOT INVOLVED WITH SERVICE —
For many Wofford students, studying abroad is at the top of the to-do list before graduation. If you’re one of those students, consider researching volunteer and service opportunities overseas while mapping out your semester abroad. Senior Laura Kate Gamble, Wofford’s 30th Presidential Scholar, traveled abroad last fall to a variety of places, managing to complete service while doing so and incorporating her volunteer work into her studies as the Presidential Scholar. I sat down with Gamble to learn more about her journey to community service.

How long have you been doing community service? Were you involved in service prior to your time at Wofford?

I did some community service in high school. I helped with the tutoring program and did the normal food drives that took place throughout the school year. I don’t think I really appreciated service learning until I got to college—what you’re doing in the classroom connects to whatever you’re doing in the community. But pretty much, since I’ve come to Wofford I’ve been involved in some community project. I helped with the Math Academy as a freshman, I’m in Kappa Alpha Theta and we did service nights at the Girls’ Home, which is now the Hope Center for Children. So my engagement in service has been kind of a continuous thing.

During your time at Wofford, how long have you been engaged with service and what type of projects or service outlets have you been involved in?

Probably the biggest would be volunteering out in the Arcadia community, specifically with ARCH after-school program. My sophomore year I got involved with this program by the Spanish department, which was awesome. Then in the spring of my sophomore year along with the fall of my junior year I helped start a student organization specifically geared towards volunteering out in Arcadia. The idea was that while a lot of Spanish majors spend a lot of time out in Arcadia as a part of a class, it would be great to incorporate all majors and have everyone benefit from this experience. From this, we started the Arcadia Volunteer Corps in the fall of 2012. So that’s been the bulk of my time!

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Seeing as you’re a Spanish major, how has your work within this department played a role in your service work?

It definitely introduced me to the Arcadia community. I think one of the big things the Spanish department has done as well is that it gives me the space to really think about some important questions. What does service mean? How are you positively impacting where you are? How do you see it as working with the community and not for the community? I think a lot of times people get tripped up with “Oh, I’m going to go and I’m going to do this,” when really it’s a collaborative effort.

With your studies as the 2013-2014 Presidential Scholar, what service work did you do within your travels and how did it exactly shape your project?

As the Presidential Scholar, my focus was on non-governmental organizations that work with children in poverty and how do you use the connections you make with the children to engage the community at large to make sustainable change. (It took me the whole five months to figure out just exactly what I was studying). But basically what that meant was that every place that I went I worked as a volunteer with different organizations to kind of get a sense of what everyday life looked like, what practices did they use, what works and what doesn’t. And so in Ghana, I volunteered with the Department of Social Services—which is basically what it is over here. And in Tanzania I helped teach English classes in a free library in the community. In Peru, I was a live-in volunteer at a shelter for abused women and children. And then in Haiti, I got to visit several medical clinics that are used by both Haitians and Americans. I also got to teach a few English classes there as well. So its kind of like five months of volunteering mixed with learning, as well, which was fun. It was incredible because I also got to work with kids, which is what I wanted to do. Pretty much, I got to make a fool of myself dancing to “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” in every country I visited.

How has serving the community made you who you are today? In other words, how has it impacted your life…?

That’s a good question. I really like that quote, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” and I think before I came to college I had a sense that it wasn’t enough, like if you weren’t completely revolutionizing something or completely changing something that it wasn’t good enough or sufficient. But by serving in the community and contributing in very small ways, you see that you can pour in a little bit and it does make a difference. So I think that’s been the biggest impact that service has had on me and teaching me what it means to live in a community with others.

For my last question, what advice would you give to students who are interested in doing service work within the Spartanburg community but do not know where to start?

Shameless plug: the Arcadia Volunteer Corps—that’s one of our goals is to match students up with interests that they have to serve the Arcadia community. The common misconception is that if you don’t speak Spanish, than you can’t go out to Arcadia. This is false because you can definitely come. We can find away to help you match your interests to serve the community. I think some other great ways to get involved are definitely with the Math Academy, as they are always looking for volunteers along with Twin Towers. Just approach upperclassmen that you notice are doing things that you are interested in. People who like to serve are happy to talk to you and to help you get involved. If you’d like to learn more about volunteering in the Arcadia Volunteer Corps, feel free to email us at: [email protected] or follow us on Twitter: @WoffordAVC.

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