The Athens-Area Humane Society, a no kill shelter, routinely pulls cats from more overcrowded facilities. (Photo/Sofi Gratas)

Ah, summertime. A chance to take a break from school, spend time with family, hang out with friends and do everything that you want to do without having to worry about deadlines for school.

But before you spend your entire summer sleeping, try to make the most of your time by getting involved in your community.

Of course, it is important to have time to rest and recover from the school year, but becoming active in your community can be an enriching and positive experience. It could be anything: getting an internship, doing public service or even joining a book club. For most of the year, we are constrained to the traditional classroom setting to learn. Summer gives us a chance to branch out and try new things.

As a child, my mom would always give me packets of work to do over the summer. Although I found it frustrating and boring at the time, I am now grateful. By completing the math problems and reading the books my mom gave me, I was able to continue learning during the summer months. Since then, I have sought to continue finding ways to enrich my time off from school.

You can enrich yourself as well with summer internships. They’re a great way to learn about your field in a real world setting. Without a class schedule to worry about, you can devote more time to an internship of your choice. Completing an internship nets you valuable work experience and enables you to make useful connections for when you are looking for a job after college. And if you talk with your department office or adviser, you can even receive academic credit for your work.

Many students are already finding exciting internships, such as Miranda Hermes, a math and math education major from Johns Creek, Georgia.

“I’m going to be in Minnesota,” Hermes said. “I’ll be doing environmental education. I’m going to be organizing a group of educators.”

By interning, Hermes and other students like her gain a leg-up on their competition and get to have new experiences they would not otherwise have.

Those staying in Athens can do a tremendous amount of good through community service. Though it may be hard to see while living on the vibrant and insulated University of Georgia campus, the Athens-Clarke County community faces many problems. For example, we have a median household income of about $33,000 and a poverty rate of 37.8%, far worse than the national household median income of $61,372 and poverty rate of 12.3%. By getting involved, you can make a real, tangible difference for local people in need.

Better yet, it’s easy to do so. According to the UGA Career Center, there are almost 160 nonprofits in Athens, making it easy to find a volunteer opportunity that you would enjoy. You could be a youth coach in basketball and soccer, Our Daily Bread community kitchen, the Athens Humane Society or at the Sandy Creek Nature Center, to name a few organizations.

So, please, enjoy your summer and take some time off to unwind from another school year. But don’t let the time go to waste and instead get involved. You won’t regret it.

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