Some students volunteer for credit and some for scholarships, but for Chikara Park volunteering has always been an act of love. Caring for her four children and giving time to their school marked most of Chikara’s days, her contributions shaped by passion and a technical education. Today, her responsibilities haven’t changed, but they aren’t limited to just motherhood – as a St. Petersburg College student, Chikara is pursuing her dream of becoming an elementary teacher and guidance counselor.
“Earning a degree was always on my list of things that must be done,” she said. “[SPC] had been in my heart before I even started.”
While a technical education was great for some, Chikara felt it wasn’t enough. “I had attended a technical college, which is great for certain career fields, but for me, I needed more,” she said. “Community service to me isn’t just going out to organizations and helping. It goes deeper than that. It’s going out, making a difference, and seeing the difference. It’s showing true compassion while doing whatever it is that you are doing, and noticeably loving it.” Thus, in pursuit of an associate degree, Chikara’s journey of balancing school, motherhood and volunteering began.
“Making a difference and seeing the difference” is a driving force in her efforts, and let’s her shine both inside and outside of the classroom. “It is such a blessing to be able to give my time.”
“Chikara is a tireless advocate for the Downtown/Midtown SPC community,” said SPC Professor Tara Newsom. “You will find her at every volunteer event on campus and off, on international service learning projects and as a student leader who helps inform SPC’s community engagement work during conferences like Moving the Needle and Welcome Back. She is an outstanding Titan!”
When asked about one of her most memorable efforts, Chikara mentioned a visit to the Free Clinic during her second semester. She visited the clinic alongside her peers on an effort guided by Behavioral Sciences Chair and Professor Kimberly Jackson. The effort was contributing to the “Pack-A-Sack” initiative, a bag of assorted snacks put together for families in need. It was an effort that addressed the issue of chronic hunger among school children and was one Chikara herself was personally familiar with.
“When I went in and was told that we were making up some of the pack-a-sack bags, I was stunned,” she explained, “I had no idea that it started from the Free Clinic.”
For Chikara, whose children received the pack-a-snack at their elementary school, this was a great opportunity to provide to those in need. “I was so excited, I knew how much these little bags of fun snacks mean to the children.” Alongside her peers, she helped organize the bags to make sure everything was prepared properly. Her effort and personal relationship with the effort lead to her accepting the role as voice of the Pack-A-Sack Hunger Free fundraiser video of 2016 — an opportunity she feels was life changing.
“I was so pleased to be able to be the voice,” said Chikara. “I always say ‘that giving back doesn’t have to be monetary, it can be time. Every time we show up, we show out! The time that’s spent setting these assignments up and recruiting students showed how committed SPC is.”
Since becoming an SPC student, Chikara has served in the Dominican Republic in SPC’s Study Abroad program. She continues to pursue her goal of an AA as an Elementary Education student, and aims to start a nonprofit organization focused on helping both children and adults in need.