Brooklyn Rue, a sophomore English major and Citizen Scholar who is hoping to graduate a semester early in Fall 2020, is being recognized for her many hours of volunteer service with the Spartan Volunteer Service Award: A Presidential Recognition. The award, presented by the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, recognizes MSU students who capture the core value of connectivity and who have volunteered more than 100 hours within the past year. Rue surpassed that by quite a bit by completing 436 volunteer hours.
“I am very much honored to have received this award,” Rue said. “It feels a little odd, to be honest, to be awarded for simply being involved in things that interest me and that bring me a great sense of fulfillment. It really does feel like I have just been going on with my life as normal, so it feels unusual to be recognized for it. I would still be participating in these kinds of experiences regardless if I am honored for my involvements, or not.”
Rue’s reward for having received this award was $200 to be donated to the nonprofit of her choice and she chose to award the money to the Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center located in Mason, Michigan.
Recipients of the 2019 Spartan Volunteer Service Award were recognized at MSU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner and the top five with the most volunteer hours, of which Rue was one, were invited to the 3rd Annual MSU Outreach and Engagement Awards Ceremony, which will take place on Wednesday, February 20, at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.
This past year, Rue volunteered with the Refugee Development Center; Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities through Tower Guard, a sophomore-only Honors Society; and the MSU Sexual Assault Program.
I am very much honored to have received this award. It feels a little odd, to be honest, to be awarded for simply being involved in things that interest me and that bring me a great sense of fulfillment.
“The MSU Sexual Assault Program was something that I was immediately drawn to my first semester of my freshman year, and I have loved being a part of it ever since,” she said. “By joining the organization, I felt I could have a real impact in helping change the culture around sexual assault and learn to better support and empower survivors.”
Rue began working with the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities after being invited to apply for the Tower Guard Honors Society.
“I had never worked with persons with disabilities in such a capacity before,” she said, “and I felt that it was an experience that I could gain a lot of knowledge and insight from that would help me grow as a person.”
Rue participated in volunteer experiences with GIVE Volunteers by teaching English and practicing sustainable building methods in Thailand, Laos, and Tanzania for two weeks each and intends to go on more GIVE trips in the future.
She also volunteered with Alternative Spartan Breaks on two service trips – one with Cass Social Services in Detroit helping at a homeless shelter and recycling center and another with the Life of Freedom Center in Miami, Florida, where she learned about the issue of sex trafficking.
“Each of the organizations I have volunteered for stemmed from a genuine interest and passion for the issue at hand,” Rue said. “I am deeply interested in and committed to issues of education, so working with the Refugee Development Center and GIVE Volunteers felt like quite organic experiences that simply made sense in regards to my own career interests and life goals.”
A Variety of Volunteer Experiences
As a volunteer, Rue has had several different roles. At the Refugee Development Center, she was a volunteer mentor tutor for a semester. At the MSU Sexual Assault Program, she serves as a crisis intervention advocate where she answers calls and messages for the program’s 24-hour crisis hotline and the 12-hour online crisis chat and helps staff safe spaces for events at MSU. She also participates in outreach events that help educate people on the issue of sexual assault across campus.
No matter where life takes me, volunteering will always be something I set aside time for and it is something I am deeply committed to.
At the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, Rue tutors MSU students with disabilities by reading exams, helping translate textbooks into accessible e-texts, and more. Finally, as a volunteer with GIVE Volunteers, she served as an English teacher and participated in community-specific projects in Thailand, Laos, and Tanzania. There, she helped build schools and teacher dormitories as well as helped start an elementary school’s permaculture farm.
“No matter where life takes me,” Rue said, “volunteering will always be something I set aside time for and it is something I am deeply committed to.”
Rue has been able to tie all her volunteer work to her English major. Through these experiences, she helped students improve their literacy skills through reading and writing as well as practiced her communication, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills.
“Each of these skills are vital to any English degree,” she said.
In addition to her volunteering, Rue is an initiated member of Alpha Omicron Pi at MSU and works as a scholar with MSU’s Community Engagement Scholar Program where once a week she travels to Detroit with a team of fellow scholars to work on community development projects with the Mayor’s Office, specifically the Department of Neighborhoods.
Rue and the rest of the Community Engagement Scholar Program team currently are working on planning a two-day Earned Income Tax Credit event in which they will help low-income residents of Detroit file taxes and apply for this tax credit. The event will help the residents connect with other financial resources and allow them to apply for this money from the federal government to support themselves and their families.
“Real change begins on a local scale, so in order for us to change systems and institutions that we feel are unfair or disadvantageous for some, we must get involved locally,” Rue said.
Real change begins on a local scale, so in order for us to change systems and institutions that we feel are unfair or disadvantageous for some, we must get involved locally.
After graduation, Rue hopes to work in an international setting. She sees herself working for a globally focused nonprofit, magazine, or helping change public policy.
“I am not entirely sure what exact path lies ahead of me, but whatever it may be, I hope to greet it with enthusiasm and a sense of real passion,” she said.
Advice to Others
Rue encourages anyone to get involved who is looking to volunteer.
“Go online and look up organizations near you or on campus and commit to something that you have a real passion for,” she said. “There are always organizations that need volunteers and could benefit from your service. Even if you only have a few hours to spare each week or even each month or semester, make the time for it because it will not only benefit the organization, but it will help you see your community and the world at large with a new perspective.”
Each of us is a member of a community, so we all have a responsibility to give back to these communities that have provided us so much.
Rue says civic engagement is “one of the most important and admirable qualities that we all should strive for.”
“Each of us is a member of a community, so we all have a responsibility to give back to these communities that have provided us so much,” she said. “My mother always had this saying of ‘Am I my sister’s keeper? Yes, I am.’ I believe this directly relates back to the ways in which we all ought to treat one another – in ways that support and uplift one another and that understand how all of our lives are intricately linked. I also feel a responsibility to use the privilege and opportunities awarded to me for the good.”
Written by Caroline Caramagno