By Marie Veillette
Samantha Stark knew she wanted to start her own volunteer organization since she started high school. When she came to MSUM, she still had not achieved that goal.
It wasn’t until last fall, when Stark took a leadership class, that the idea started to form into reality. The complex and lengthy process of beginning a new organization had seemed daunting without a team of people committed to creating it, and Stark was unsure she would ever find that team.
The leadership class required Stark to complete a group project.
“I thought this would be a good opportunity to make an organization,” she said.
She pitched her volunteer association idea to the rest of her group and with their approval and support, Positive Impact was founded.
Stark was partially inspired by Trish Harwell, another student who was collecting clothes at MSUM to donate to Fraser Ltd., an organization that provides services to children and adults seeking independence.
“She said she wanted to positively impact the MSUM campus,” Stark said. “I kind of held on to that.”
One year later, the organization has been given funds and will be beginning to implement its ideas.
Though one year may seem like a long time to become a recognized organization on campus, Stark said there were a couple factors that added time to the process. Between spending spring semester in England and the transition of presidents, the process took slightly longer than usual.
“Going to England kind of just got everything ungeared, so it was kind of a mess,” Stark said. “But, we are getting things back on track, and that’s what this semester is for.”
Right now, Positive Impact is considered a pending organization. Since it received budget money for next semester, that status will be removed, and the organization will become official.
Even though the shifting of MSUM presidents caused a slight delay, Positive Impact had the honor of being the first new organization to be approved by Anne Blackhurst.
Corin Puhulla, the group’s director of public relations, said being involved with the creation of Positive Impact has been a beneficial learning experience.
“It definitely gives you a greater appreciation for what people have done on our campus with various organizations that are thriving,” she said.
Stark agreed and said creating the organization has given her confidence and the skills to professionally present herself.
“Being a leader really showed me not only that I want, but actually can be a leader of a group in the future,” she said.
As a pending organization, the group is working to make students aware of the opportunity to become an active member this spring.
Positive Impact is about “networking” through volunteering, Stark said. She plans to have the group team up with other MSUM organizations and volunteer groups at NDSU and Concordia to complete projects. She also hopes the group will have a larger influence on the area by connecting with community-based establishments such as American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters and nursing homes and homeless shelters.
“I’d like to see a good amount of teamwork with other student organizations,” Puhulla said. “It’s always tough to get something started and to get our feet off the ground. My biggest hope is that we can get a lot of interest and support from peers.”
Right now, there is no website or social media for Positive Impact, but students interested in joining the group can email Stark or Pulhulla. The Positive Impact team is hoping to build up a large group of participants in preparation for next semester.
“I think social media and face to face contact will be the most beneficial for us,” Pulhulla said. “I’m sure you’ll be able to see all of us on the executive board out there trying to gain interest and get some new members.”
Stark said it is important to find students who will continue to participate in the organization and keep it active after she graduates. Though she is a senior, Stark plans to attend MSUM next year as well.
“I’m staying an extra year mostly for the organization,” she said. “I’m hoping to come back and help out even after I graduate.”
Dr. Theresa Hest, MSUM professor in the School of Communication and Journalism and the group’s advisor, said it was an “easy choice” to accept the position.
“These experiences provide a venue for students to build leadership skills, network and meet people in the greater Fargo-Moorhead community, develop their awareness of diversity issues and apply their communication skills,” she said.
Organizations choose their advisor, and Stark said Hest was picked for her past experience with a similar organization Volunteer Visions, which has since disbanded.
With her goal achieved, Stark still finds it hard to believe she received a B in her leadership class for the group project.
Grades aside, she said she has gained a lot from the whole process.
“From the organization, I’ve made four really close friends,” she said.
Pulhulla said she feels the same.
“We were really lucky to mesh so well,” she said. “It’s an interesting mix of personalities, but somehow it just works.”