By Cori Erwin

Twenty-year-old Sarah Wiggs, a Winthrop University sophomore from Irmo, South Carolina, is hard at work on her Spanish major, and when she is not doing schoolwork, she can often be found giving back to the Rock Hill community.

As a Close Scholar, Wiggs is required to participate in a minimum of 112 hours of volunteer service per semester, and she completes most of her hours working in an afterschool program called Discovery Station.

Wiggs said she started volunteering at Fewell Park last semester.  She serves 8 hours a week with Discovery Station, an afterschool program that currently takes care of about 23 children weekly.

When the children get off the bus at Fewell Park, Wiggs said she checks their homework folders to see who has assignments to do.  The children are then allowed to play at the park for about an hour before they get a snack and start doing their homework.

Volunteers like Wiggs help the children with their homework assignments and play games with them until their parents come to pick them up around 6 p.m.

Some of the children along with another volunteer who Wiggs worked with last year when she said the group was much smaller.

As a student hoping to one day teach high school Spanish, Wiggs said she enjoys working with the children every week.

“Getting to take care of kids every Tuesday and Thursday is my dream job, and I have grown to love these kids like they are my family because I am so invested in their schoolwork and their success,” Wiggs said.

Wiggs is part of the Close Scholars Program at Winthrop University which is a scholarship that combines academic achievement and community service.  

Only four or five students are chosen for this scholarship annually, and those that participate, volunteer at least 112 hours per semester and must maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA.  In addition to these requirements, students also have monthly group projects which benefit the community.

Wiggs said the program has not only helped the community, but it has also created a tight-knit group of students at Winthrop University.

“The Close Scholar Program has provided me with a way to help my community while also paying for school, and it has provided me with lifelong friendships that I get to work alongside every month,” Wiggs said.

In addition to volunteering for the Close Scholar Program, Wiggs also helps plan and organize events for the Reformed University Fellowship, or RUF, on campus.  This is a Christian-based organization that welcomes students to show God’s love through service in the community according to their webpage.

Suzannah Way, a twenty-year-old senior and business administration major from Spartanburg, SC, said she met Wiggs in the RUF program at Winthrop University and thinks it is really cool that Wiggs volunteers every week.

“I think Sarah is a very passionate person,” Way said.  “She definitely loves people, and she knows what she wants out of life.”

Wiggs has been volunteering since she was in high school, and she doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.  During her time in Irmo, South Carolina, Wiggs said she volunteered with her church on many service projects, not only in the United States but also abroad.

Her prior volunteer experience includes leading a middle school conference trip to Tennessee, interning in the Dominican Republic, and moving to Honduras for a yearlong volunteer internship with Mission to World.

In college, balancing schoolwork and volunteering results in some very late nights studying, but Wiggs said she uses weekends as a chance to get her studies done.  Wiggs is a modern day student hero who not only excels in school but also serves her community and enjoys the feeling of helping others.

“[What I like most about volunteering is] Seeing the faces of the people get excited when they figure out that you really just want to be there with them in the hard moments of life and help them in every and any way possible,” said Wiggs. “And for Fewell Park knowing that by taking care of these parents’ children their lives might be a little easier for a few hours in the afternoons.”

Some of last year’s kids in the Discovery Station program where Wiggs volunteers.

Wiggs said she always plans to volunteer in some way whether it is through an organization like RUF or through her church ministry.