Hey Pilots, Natalie here. As The Beacon’s community engagement editor, I am always looking for new ways to engage with the amazing community here on campus. That said, I’m excited to introduce a brand-new column in The Beacon this year: What’s UP with Natalie. This recurring column will cover all things UP, from club spotlights — giving students some new ways to get involved on campus — to other fun or relevant topics I think the community would enjoy.
For my first column, I sat down with some officers from UP’s chapter of Circle K International, a student-run service group on campus, to learn more about who they are, what they do and how UP students can get involved.
— known around campus as CKI — is a chapter of , an international service group founded in Michigan in 1915. This specific chapter of Kiwanis is geared toward college students specifically, but the Kiwanis organization as a whole caters to all different age groups.
According to CKI secretary and senior social work major Alyssa Ong, the Kiwanis are a group of leaders in their communities who want to give their time and efforts back in the form of service and pass this service mindset on to younger generations. Each Circle K club around the world has a Kiwanis advisor that helps the club align their projects and goals with the larger organization.
The club tries to do one service event per week, whether it be an off-campus activity like to cook and serve food to the homeless or an on-campus activity like a blanket-making event. For each event, the club usually fills all the spots available. In the past, the club has also volunteered at the and the .
CKI tries to provide transportation to events, as well, to make volunteering as convenient as possible, according to Kate Malonzo, a senior psychology major and Bulletin Editor of the club.
Here on the UP campus, the club has close to 50 active members, according to Ong. CKI meetings are in Shiley 123 at 5 p.m. every other Monday, complete with event recaps, sign-ups for future events, ice-breakers and food at almost every meeting.
According to CKI faculty adviser and math professor Jason Dolor, what CKI members love most is the community that the club provides.
“The club is like a family,” Dolor said in an email. “Whenever I attend club meetings, I can see how the members interact with each other in such a positive manner.”
Each meeting brings somewhere between 25 and 30 students, and service events usually fill up and have a waitlist. One of the most unique things about the club, officers say, is the true comradery that each member feels during meetings and events.
“I hope we can create a safe and welcoming environment for students to get out in the community, to give back, to realize we aren’t just isolated in our little privileged college bubble,” Tiana Igarashi, senior psychology major and CKI vice president, said.
While many service relationships in the community have been long-established by previous officers of the club, current officers try to choose events depending on what their members are interested in.
“We really want to listen to our club members, so if they want to do something that involves more animals, then we’ll try to get more events gearing toward that,” Malonzo said.
“I really liked what the club was doing,” Aymon Klem, a senior mechanical engineering major and CKI President said. “I stayed because it felt like a great thing to do, to be in charge of something that does something like this every week.”
Other clubs on campus looking to give back or participate in community service can reach out at any time to partner up and do a service event. CKI has done this in the past. A few weeks ago they teamed up with UP’s International Club to participate in , and would like to do more of these types of events this year.
For people that are interested in joining, the CKI officers have a few things that they want students to know:
1) Sometimes the club’s faculty adviser brings his pet corgi, Bernie, to meetings, Klem said.
2) Try going to an event at least once because you might like it, make new friends and connect with people, Ong said.
3) It’s important to physically get out in the community in order to fully understand the world around us, Igarashi said.
So, Pilots, if you’re looking for a unique and globally-minded way to engage with your community this semester or in the spring, CKI might be the club for you.
Natalie Nygren is the Community Engagement Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.