Students Learn That Service Enhances Education

Dean Shumway is applying lessons he learned participating in the service-learning program at BYU–Idaho. “As a student, a lot of what you focus on is ‘me’ and ‘What can I do for myself?’ At BYU–Idaho I learned the importance of giving service,” he says. “Now, even though life is busy, I’m volunteering in the hospital emergency room and really enjoying it.”

Brian Schmidt, director of the BYU–Idaho Leadership and Service Institute (LSI) says that the effort was started to develop leaders. “We want to prepare students for future service and leadership in their family, the Church, the workplace, and their community,” he says.

Shumway says he felt a void after he returned from his mission. “I happened to walk past a Leadership and Service Institute poster and ended up volunteering in a Rexburg nursing center that first semester,” he says. “Each Wednesday we went to the center for about two hours. I remember thinking that I was too busy, but I went and it was an enriching experience. Every single time I came away feeling uplifted.”

Later, Shumway was asked to be the student coordinator for the institute’s community service programs. “I was involved in organizing programs, recruiting and training volunteers, and working with program directors,” he says. “Our goal was to create service opportunities and to give service, but I learned practical skills that will be useful employment skills at the same time. It was a win-win situation in every way.”

In all, Shumway’s association with LSI lasted a year and a half. Now a graduate of BYU–Idaho studying neuroscience at BYU in Provo, he believes learning to serve others is one of the most important parts of his education. “It was definitely an A-plus experience,” he says. “I wouldn’t trade my LSI opportunities at BYU–Idaho for anything.”

Schmidt says that Shumway is a great example of what service experience and leadership training can add to a person’s education. “Dean believed strongly in service, and it was neat to give him opportunities where he could apply himself,” Schmidt says. “He really grew—and being a part of that is a joy.”

Michael Hill, another alumnus of the program, called LSI a “singular experience.” Hill, who is finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Idaho, plans to apply to medical school this summer. In addition to volunteer work at the hospital and with the Boy Scouts, Hill says that each week he and his wife try to serve others in ways that are not part of an organized service group. “Our efforts are the direct result of LSI training to identify a need and then try to meet it,” he says.

Part of the activities program at BYU–Idaho, the institute offers students personal and group development retreats in addition to community service and leadership experience. “I think we are preparing future Relief Society presidents, elders quorum presidents, and bishops,” says Schmidt. “We’re helping students work on skills and learn gospel principles that will help them in their lives.”

The BYU–Idaho Board of Trustees has identified and approved LSI as a priority program that will be funded privately. Donations to BYU–Idaho in support of LSI will allow the institute to make its offerings available to more BYU–Idaho students. To contribute, call LDS Foundation at BYU–Idaho at 1-800-227-4257, or visit www.byui.edu/giving

“Contributions in support of the institute bless in a twofold way,” says Schmidt. “First, donations bless people in the community as we serve them and, second, our work blesses the students, instilling in them the value of service.”

Shumway says his experience with the institute was life changing. “For me, giving service is an now an important part of life.” Hill agrees.

Schmidt points out that Shumway’s and Hill’s experiences are what the institute is all about. “LSI instills values that help students make Christlike service a way of life,” he says. “Our ultimate goal is for our former students to help when they see a need in their community.”