Student Spotlight: Elise Alfonso: A Dedicated Volunteer
ISyE junior Elise Alfonso (BSIE 2017) tells a great story about how she fell in love with Georgia Tech. As she explains, “Shortly after I began applying to colleges, I visited some of them with my family. When I visited Tech I fell in love with its campus, with its message, and with its people. Everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming, and they all reassured me that Tech was dedicated to making my educational experience exceptional. The pivotal moment in making my decision was my first tour of campus. It was cold outside, and there were flurries in the air.
“My tour guide, Paco, was wearing the thickest jacket I had ever seen, but he was also wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops. It was a peculiar combination of clothing, but he seemed perfectly comfortable and had a cheery smile on his face during the entire tour. I was astonished at how many people he knew on campus. Every few minutes, he would see someone, interrupt the tour to wave or say ‘hello,’ and then tell the entire group an extremely descriptive story about how he knew the person. That is when I decided I wanted to attend Tech – a university where I could feel comfortable expressing myself and walk around campus waving at everyone I passed by.”
With Martin Luther King Day coming up, and its increasing importance as a day of service, I sat down for a chat with Alfonso, who is heavily involved with volunteer opportunities on Georgia Tech’s campus.
You’re engaged with several volunteer groups and activities on campus. Describe a little about each of your roles.
I have been a Student Staff Member (SSM) on campus since August 2014, and it is a position I am extremely proud of. I have been a Peer Leader in the Freshman Experience program in two different communities, as well as a summer Resident Assistant. I have been able to work with amazing Hall Directors and fellow SSMs to implement programs focused on community development, transition, and career development. My position has allowed me to expand my network of friends, build more confidence, and develop my leadership and communication skills. However, I am most proud of my amazing residents, and I enjoy watching them thrive and gain their own leadership experiences at Tech.
I joined MOVE [Georgia Tech's umbrella organization for a variety of community service and volunteer opportunities] during my first semester at Tech, and this year I am serving as its Vice Director of Education. MOVE has several projects and education committees to serve the community’s needs, and as part of my position, I lead education committee chairs and help them with recruitment, advertisement, and program logistics. I often work with other MOVE executive members, and I helped implement Tech’s largest freshman community service initiative, Into the Streets.
This year, I am also a member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and Sunday Supper Planning Committee. I have always admired the idea of making MLK Day a “day on” rather than a day off to honor MLK’s legacy. I was so excited to be able to create the reflection component for this year’s day of service, and I designed informational trading cards that will allow volunteers to learn about past Civil Rights heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as inspirational modern-day human rights activists like Malala Yousafzai. I have loved planning the event, and I cannot wait for it to take place on Monday, January 18th.
Why is volunteer work where you’ve chosen to spend the bulk of your extracurricular time, as opposed to all the other opportunities that are available to you as a Georgia Tech student? What about it makes it particularly important to you?
Community service is my greatest passion, and as soon as I arrived on campus, I began searching for any and every opportunity to participate in service events. I chose to volunteer with MOVE, TEAMBuzz, Tech Beautification Day, and the MLK Day of Service. I felt like my volunteer experiences connected me to people at Tech as well as to those in the Atlanta community.
There are so many other organizations and activities on campus, but I feel happiest when a child I am tutoring feels excited about learning something new, or when I clear debris from the Atlanta Beltline, or when I think about how a tree I planted with Trees Atlanta will positively impact the planet. I have so much to be thankful for in my life, and I just want to be able to give back any way that I can.
What has been your most meaningful volunteer experience at Tech so far, and why?
This year I have had the opportunity to work on the logistics of several volunteer experiences, but I think my most meaningful volunteer experience at Tech so far was my role as a project lead for TEAMBuzz last year. I was able to advertise TEAMBuzz within my residence hall, and many of the residents and staff members joined the project that I was leading.
We volunteered at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Greater Atlanta, and I spent my time making sure all the volunteers were working comfortably and were completing their tasks successfully. I was able to move around the facility and connect with several groups of volunteers while I helped out. I was so happy that I could inspire members of my community to volunteer with me, and that I could meet so many people through a shared interest.
Do you ever have the opportunity to use your IE skills as part of your volunteer experience?
Industrial engineering involves a lot of critical thinking, organization, and optimization, and I definitely use those skills when planning service events. Many times I have had to make quick decisions based on the situation in front of me, and I have had to solve last-minute problems that arise.
Planning a volunteer experience is all about analyzing the given information, making decisions based on that information, creating alternate plans for unexpected results or emergencies, and gathering data after the event to improve upon it for the future. Even though I have never solved for any probabilities while organizing service events, I have definitely learned to consider all possible outcomes.
What does the future look like for you?
After I graduate, I want to pursue a master’s degree and eventually find a career that will allow me to use my IE skills to help others.