September 5, 2017

by Lisa Proulx

Student Volunteers Close to 200 Hours at VA Medical Center in Manchester

PORTSMOUTH – As part of a campus-wide effort to become more active in the community, Great Bay Community College is encouraging students to set aside time in their schedules for volunteer work. The school is emphasizing volunteerism and community service as a complement to its academic and job-training curriculum.

“We have seen a large increase in volunteer participation in the past few years,” said Sara Lang, Student Life Assistant at Great Bay. “There is a core group of students, faculty, and staff that know about our volunteer efforts, and while the word spreads a little here and there, we are working to see that the word spreads more and more each year.”

Great Bay is known on the Seacoast for its partnerships with surrounding businesses. School leaders hope the emphasis on community service will further encourage “our good reputation,” Lang said. “It’s great to know that so many businesses and people think so highly of us, and it’s even better when they also think highly of our civic-minded students.”

The school is working to create more volunteer opportunities. The Student Life department offers a volunteer opportunity once a month for all students, faculty, and staff. In addition, the department also maintains an ongoing list of volunteer opportunities, including Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Operation Blessing, and the Greenleaf Rec Center. Over the past year, additional college efforts have included a charity yard sale to benefit the NHSPCA and Operation Blessing. A recent effort in support of the Community College System of New Hampshire’s partnership with the Office of the Governor and New Hampshire Emergency Management collected donations for victims of the crisis caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico.

During student orientation, Lang impresses on incoming students the importance and reward of volunteering. If they show up for just one of the school’s sponsored volunteer days only for the sake of building a resume, that’s OK. She also tells them, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, at the end of the day, while you’re decompressing and reflecting on what you just experienced, you’re going to realize that you just selflessly helped someone or some group and it didn’t cost you anything but a few hours of your time.”

One of Great Bay’s model student volunteers is Ken Stanley, a 25-year military veteran who volunteers 15 hours a week at the VA Medical Center in Manchester. Stanley, who lives in Dover, served in Iraq, and returned home to New Hampshire afflicted with PTSD and other war-related injuries. He received help at the VA, and began spending time there as a volunteer. He also volunteers at New Hampshire Vet to Vet in Rochester.

With the financial support of the New Hampshire Bureau Vocational Rehabilitation, he enrolled at Great Bay with the goal of transferring to the University of New Hampshire and becoming a licensed social worker. He wants to help other veterans returning from war get the help they need to resume active, productive lives back home. This spring, he was awarded Great Bay Community College’s 100 Hour Club award for hours of volunteerism and is well on his way to earning the next tier award for 250 hours.

Stanley, who retired from the military in 2006, is proud of his volunteer work, and encourages others to get involved. “It’s important for me to volunteer because it helps me in my recovery,” he said. “I also have the extra incentive of talking to veterans and helping them move forward with their lives. Instead of giving them a handout, let’s give them a hand up. That’s why I do it.”

Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth.  The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. The college’s second campus, the Advanced Technology & Academic Center is open in Rochester offering academic courses and a degree program in Advanced Composites Manufacturing.   For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit