HPA junior takes helm of Penn State Student United Way

Service to others has become a way of life for Sara Kizer, a Health Policy and Administration junior and the president of the Penn State Student United Way, a student-run branch of the Centre County United Way. Although Kizer has gained a broad perspective on volunteerism through her administrative role with the United Way, she especially values the opportunity to touch individual lives -- even if it involves picking out the perfect Hello Kitty sweatshirt. This is exactly what she did for a project called Jeans for Teens, which lets volunteers spend a day shopping with at-risk youth.

“Jeans for Teens has been one of my favorite projects so far,” she said. “I was given the opportunity to shop with a 13-year-old girl. In the beginning, I could tell that she didn’t want to be there. She was quiet and didn’t really talk to me. But then she found a Hello Kitty sweatshirt and got really excited and started talking, telling me all about her life.”

In addition to Jeans for Teens, Kizer has been involved with several other service programs through the United Way, including:

  • Trash to Treasure -- Winter sale of donated and unclaimed Penn State student items.
  • Big Burger Challenge -- Sponsored teams of 10 to 15 people eat 15-pound burgers for charity. Each burger is donated by Denny’s Beer Barrel and Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania.
  • State College Area Food Bank -- Sort and organize donated food.
  • Bellefonte Youth Center -- Play with children, organize games and crafts.
  • Moshannon Valley YMCA -- Chaperone teen dances.

Kizer became involved with the United Way when she first volunteered to work as a sorter with the Trash to Treasure efforts in January 2008.

“This is where I got to know the mission of Student United Way and liked it,” she said. The following year she served as a co-coordinator of the event, helping to recruit 120 volunteers to sort more than six tons of donated items. The 2009 sale also raised $5,300 for the Centre County United Way.

Under Kizer’s leadership this year, the Penn State Student United Way has doubled its membership and has doubled the number of events, which include at least four service events per month. As president, Kizer chairs meetings, works with members and officers to plan events, and sits as a voting member of the Centre County United Way Executive Board. She also sits on the Council of LionHearts, which is a group of service organization leaders at Penn State. Being part of the Council of LionHearts gives Student United Way access to the http://volunteer.psu.edu/ website, where members can post information about service events for prospective volunteers.

Kizer sees her volunteerism as a way to serve a community that has given her so much opportunity.

“Centre County has been my home during my college career, and I think the best way to show my appreciation is to give back to the community," she said.

Kizer said she is amazed by the joy her work brings others, especially the young friend she made through Jeans for Teens.

“At the end of the day the girl turns to me and says, ‘You know this was a lot better than I thought. I thought I was going to get some stuck-up college kid, but you’re actually pretty cool.’ I think being called cool by a 13-year-old kid is pretty amazing.”

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Last Updated November 18, 2010