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The City Journals

WSU Senior Volunteers, Enhances College Experiences

Oct 08, 2015 03:27PM ● By Bryan Scott

Amina Kahn is one of several Weber State students who posed for UTA bus ads.

By Nancy Van Valkenburg

Chances are good that you’ve seen Amina Kahn while you were out and about in Ogden.

The Weber State University senior posed for one of the WSU bus advertisements, and as you wait for a traffic light, you may see her image seem to peer at you from the back of a UTA bus, the bus license plate jauntily resting on her left shoulder.

“I haven’t seen it yet,” said Kahn, 22, from Layton. “My friends keep telling me they’ve seen it. I think one of the routes is from Salt Lake to Ogden.”

Kahn plans to graduate next spring with a Bachelors degree in public relations and advertising and a minor in marketing.  She was one of a handful of students WSU officials asked to help in its most recent marketing campaign.

“I love taking pictures, and figured hey, why not,” Kahn said. “I got to represent Weber State, and it was a cool opportunity.”

Kahn has embraced many opportunities during her time as a student, and believes it has enriched her educational experience. During her freshmen year, she volunteered at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah.

She also has participated in Alternative Spring Break. She and 29 other students traveled to Las Vegas to help out at a food bank and at two elementary schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“I wanted to give back and do something meaningful, and I’m glad I did it,” Kahn said. “You usually think of poverty as people on the street. I didn’t realize that even in elementary school, people go through hardships every day. Kids go home for the weekend with no food. I learned there are a lot of ways to help, and if you can’t give money, you can give supplies or clothing or your time.”

Last year, Kahn volunteered during Weber State’s International Week, doing an Asian dance and painting students with henna designs. Outside of school, Kahn, who is of Pakistani and Laotian descent, won the title of Miss Asia Utah 2014. 

This school year, Kahn serves as social media marketing director for WSUSA, Weber State’s student involvement and leadership organization. In September, Kahn served as the University’s homecoming queen.

“What I do like about Weber State is it’s easy to get involved here,” she said. “I like how small it is, and how easy it is to make connections. It’s fun.”

Emma Clark, coordinator of WSU’s Student Involvement and Leadership program, said she has seen students gain confidence, social skills and even career opportunities through involvement and leadership.

“Last year, we had a PR major who was nervous about picking up an important speaker from the airport,” Clark said. “He worked through it, and got comfortable, and now part of his job is driving around Joey (Fatone) from N’SYNC, and he can talk to anybody comfortably.”

Clark said she has known Kahn since last school year.

“One thing I noticed about her was the tremendous amount of personal growth she had from the beginning of the year to the end,” Clark said. “I’ve noticed that in a lot of students who find ways to get involved and make friends outside their social circle and their major. I hope they get out and inspire those students who aren’t leaders yet to get involved and give back to the Weber and Ogden communities any way they can.”

Weber State University places a high value on volunteer work, and many lower level classes make volunteering through WSU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning a part of their required course work.

 “One hundred and five faculty members taught 287 CCEL community engaged learning classes last year,” said Brenda M. Kowalewski, CCEL director. “It’s a way of helping students see the relevance between what they are learning in the classroom and how they can contribute to the community.”

CCEL’s goal is to develop civically minded professionals, Kowalewski said.

“We want Weber State Students to walk away understanding the knowledge, talent and skills they learned hear, honed here, began to develop here, can be used to enhance the community.

“Our ultimate goal here is help students understand they are not just coming to college to make a living, but to make a life, not just for themselves, but for everyone in their community.”

Kahn said her volunteer work has increased her empathy for people living under circumstances different from her own. And as a career-focused senior, she also believes her many volunteer hours outside of the classroom will help when she starts her job search.

“I feel like I’ve gained a lot of experience and networking skills,” the student said. “If I hadn’t done it, I would have just gone to class and gone home every night. When you are looking for a job, you want to go to school, but also you have to prove your skills. Getting your name out there helps a lot with your future.”

Not all students can be homecoming royalty, of course.

“There are many different ways to be involved,” said Kahn. “There are so many clubs and organizations that can meet your interests. You can create some awesome experiences for yourself that will help you now and in the future.”