Jan. 16, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- Giving back to the community has become a calling for UW track team member Laura McGinnis.
Not only does the junior from Middleton, Wis., volunteer at two non-profit organizations in the Madison area, she also inspires her fellow student-athletes to get involved while serving as the community service representative for Student-Athletes Equally Supporting Others (SAESO).
While her efforts have an immediate impact, McGinnis's volunteer efforts are also preparing her for a career in counseling. The human development and family studies major wants to attend graduate school to become a counselor after graduation.
"I've always known that I wanted to help people with my job," said McGinnis.
McGinnis volunteers a few hours each week at the YWCA of Madison and Parent Connection Program Center for Families. Serving as a mentor to underprivileged individuals at both organizations, McGinnis has been challenged to see things from other perspectives. For her, this has been the most rewarding part.
"The things that the families [involved with these organizations] have gone through are just amazing to me. Being involved with them reinforces how blessed I am," she said. "Volunteering has shown me a different side of the world that I knew existed but had never interacted with before."
At the Parent Connection Program McGinnis mentors and serves as a support system for a teen mother and her child. The experience has been an eye-opening one for McGinnis and has motivated her to further pursue her career goals.
"I was so inspired by how resilient and persistent [the mother I was assigned to] had been throughout her life," said McGinnis. "It reinforced for me why I want to go into counseling. Stories like hers inspire me to want to impact people's lives."
McGinnis has used her experience at the Parent Connection Program to inspire her fellow student-athletes while serving as the Community Service Representative for SAESO. As the community service representative, she helps to locate and arrange volunteer opportunities for her fellow student-athletes.
"We have a really unique opportunity as student-athletes to give back to the community," said McGinnis. "People look up to student-athletes, especially kids. It's really important to be a positive role model in their lives."
Her efforts to get her fellow-student athletes involved have been successful. McGinnis has contributed to a 40% increase in volunteerism by UW student-athletes since September 2012. In the opinion of UW Athletics Community Relations Coordinator Kayla Gross, helping student-athletes get involved is only the beginning for McGinnis.
"The amount of time McGinnis dedicates to impacting the Madison community is extraordinary," said Gross. "She is motivated, she's compassionate and she uses those qualities to inspire those around her to get involved. The field of counseling will be lucky to have her."
McGinnis plans to continue volunteering with the Parent Connection Program and hopes to serve as the SAESO Community Relations Representative again next year to further prepare herself for her career pursuits and continue impacting the Madison community.
"I think it's important to be involved in community that has given me so many things," she said.