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The first time I heard this phrase was in April during a Duke-hosted Zoom discussion on ethical civic engagement when I was still figuring out a new plan for the summer. 


Duke Service-Learning and the Duke Office of Civic Engagement really emphasized that we should 1) let the partner organization drive the needs and 2) identify our own skills and how they could intersect with the nonprofit’s needs. Both of these guidelines are best served by staying in our local community, which we already know a lot about simply by living there. I left that discussion knowing that I couldn’t responsibly stay with the DukeEngage Boston program since I had never even been to Boston and really didn’t know anything about the area. 


Luckily, I was able to find a nonprofit only 30 minutes away from my home in Maryland that had the capacity to host an intern despite the pandemic. The tasks I completed this week really reaffirmed my decision to stay local. 


For the past three weeks, I had been conducting research on local community service organizations and stores that we could contact for partnership opportunities. It was a huge advantage that I already knew what clubs and stores we had in the area and that I was familiar with the various Maryland counties and cities to be able to find new organizations that were geographically close to my nonprofit. 


This week, I finally began reaching out and making cold-calls, which I was really nervous about. But, the stores I called were ones I had actually been to – a CVS in Ellicott City or Michaels in Columbia, not a CVS or Michaels somewhere in Boston. That was enough to make the nerve-wracking experience a lot less scary. Having grown up in this community has been a very valuable experience that I bring to my nonprofit. 


You don’t have to go very far to find a meaningful volunteer experience. The best service opportunity is the one right where you are 🙂