Students find meaning, niche through service

Carving out your niche in college isn’t easy. But what better way to find a community than through community service?

The William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development at the University of Miami is an office on campus that encourages student involvement within the Miami community and challenges them to grow as leaders individually.

The Butler Center has become an important part of campus life, primarily through connecting students with each other by reaching out to the outside community through service programs, leadership development campaigns and connections with service-based student organizations.

“Working in the [Butler Center] last summer was probably one of the great memories I will have in my four years at UM. The friendships I made and skills I gained are irreplaceable,” said sophomore Natalie Fontela, a senior worker at the Butler Center. “[It] is an amazing place to be around and it’s definitely an office and department that impacts the whole university and its students greatly.”

Random Acts of Kindness, Dance Marathon, STRIVE, alternative spring breaks, CERT and Relay for Life are all run through the Butler Center.

For example, FunDay is the longest-running community service event at the University of Miami and pairs more than 350 special needs citizens from the Greater Miami-Dade area with student volunteers for a day of fun, games and food.

“You make a friend for a day,” said senior Elyse Feinerman, an executive board member who is was in charge of last year’s arts and crafts. “You not only make their day by being their friend, but you also have the time of your life.”

FunDay is just one of the many service opportunities available during the year through the Butler Center.

The Butler Center originated as a part of the Smith-Tucker Involvement Center and originally had one student representative. Eventually, the office grew and was named after William R. Butler, a past vice president of student affairs at UM who left the position in 1997.

“I think that he has helped me grow more than anybody on campus or ever,” said senior Claire Heckerman, who is also a senior worker at the Butler Center. “I think I have transformed as a leader in the last two years from being a frustrated sophomore to an adult that can work with different types of people.”