The value of volunteers to community well-being is indisputable. But what happens when such work is done? And, more importantly, how can a service organization not only aid with problems but solve them as well?
University of Tulsa Student Association (SA) president and energy management major Kareem Ihmeidan wants to find a solution to these questions. After having spent considerable time in the neighborhoods surrounding TU, Ihmeidan decided it was time for SA and the campus as a whole to extend their resources to less privileged communities. Ihmeidan and his fellow TU students Chris Paul and Joshua Stewart therefore recently teamed up with True Blue Neighbors to establish Force for Good, a student-led initiative that emphasizes the personal role of volunteers in community outreach.
This new organization is centered on the deep involvement of TU students in the public sphere beyond the university. The goal is to establish a university-wide, community-facing, non-partisan organization that is embedded within the Tulsa community. In doing so, Ihmeidan hopes Force for Good will provide a volunteer-to-advocate pipeline for students who have a passion for community involvement. The group’s advocacy dimension will allow for volunteers to sit in on the committees of city boards and commissions and, thereby, get involved with community leaders. “Participating in Force for Good could, I hope, potentially lead to a student discovering a lifelong passion for civic engagement and, perhaps, even a career path,” said Ihmeidan.
Melissa Abdo, the director of True Blue Neighbors, is eager for the initiative to take off. “Force for Good is not just an outreach program, it’s a problem-solving program,” she remarked. “I believe it’s going to have long-lasting results.”
These outcomes are exactly what Ihmeidan hopes to establish before he graduates: “I want to leave something behind, something that can flourish and expand into greatness.”
Opportunities to get involved
One of Force for Good’s first initiatives is an afternoon tutoring program with Will Rogers High School, through which TU students can volunteer their services one afternoon a week. After speaking to the Will Rogers principal, the group has started to establish a team of tutors.
TU students can also join the leadership team or its Reshape Tulsa Initiative, which offers the chance to serve on City of Tulsa boards and commissions. Ihmeidan and his colleagues are likewise seeking students to join its community organizing team, which will give members the opportunity to volunteer with community organizations and develop their community organizing skills.
Other volunteer activities offered through True Blue Neighbors include:
For Ihmeidan and Stewart, one of Force for Good’s defining moments was a meeting last summer with prominent community leader and 2020 mayoral candidate Greg Robinson. One of the main take-aways from their conversation was Robinson’s advice to “ask the people what they need, and don’t try to decide it for them.”
Drawing inspiration from that counsel, in spring 2022, Force for Good plans to host a “listening day tour,” which will be a day of service dedicated to listening to the concerns of Tulsa residents. Participants will canvas door to door in various neighborhoods to inquire about the problems that community members feel need addressing, such as unequal access to housing and education.
Are you passionate about community service? Then sign up today with Force for Good. The volunteer application can be found through both the True Blue Neighbors and Force For Good websites. As a further incentive to get involved, any volunteer opportunity offered through the group will count as credit hours through True Blue Neighbors’ Public Service Internship.