This past semester I have been volunteering at Pipkin Middle School every Thursday and Friday. After I had finished my last day with these young students, I began to reflect back on my time. I realized that these experiences had changed my life. I have started to give back to the community, but the community has given me back something too: a new perspective on life.

1. I have a closer connection to my local community.

The midtown community is a big part of what makes Drury University so unique. From neighborhood clean-ups to Give Ozark's Day, there are many members of this community dedicated to improving the area. My university has found a way for local college students to give back to the midtown area and I have participated in several of these events. Through several hours of work within this community, I have begun to feel a closer connection to the people who live in midtown. No longer am I just existing—I am participating in the community as well.

2. Community service has taught me how to be appreciative.

Far too often we take things for granted. I know that I have my fair share of times. Whether it be that I came from a stable home where I never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from, or that I had many things in life given to me, I may have been a little bit too spoiled. After spending this last semester working with students of all backgrounds at a local middle school, I have realized how lucky I am. Since realizing how much I have, I have become more conscientious of it.

3. I have met wonderful people.

The people I have met while volunteering has shaped the person I am today. I have met other people like me who like to give back to their community, and I have met individuals who are benefiting from the service. All of these great people have a story and through volunteering, their story is shared.

4. I have learned new information about the community.

Whenever someone gets involved with their local community, they are bound to learn something. I have heard about the real issues within the community. On the other hand, I also know about the bright spots in midtown. When I was volunteering with the recent midtown clean-up, I learned that some of the households we were helping were not technically part of midtown. It did not matter though because the goal of the clean-up was to improve the area and even though some of these houses were not midtown, they were in the neighborhood.

5. I have had experiences that changed my life.

Every time someone volunteers, their life changes for the better. Each time I volunteer at Pipkin, I appreciate more and more the opportunities I had when in middle school. I appreciate all that my community is doing to make the world a better place. When I come home after a service project, I am a little bit different from when I left. Community service is not something I feel forced to do, but instead, it is my way of life.

Even though my time at Pipkin Middle School has come to a close I will not stop being involved with the local community. Whether I am in Springfield, Missouri or anywhere else I will be involved with my community. I will give back.