Alumna Credits Success to Volunteering

Jessica Schwendeman Photo Edited_Final“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have,” said Anthropologist,  Margaret Mead.

Alumna Jessica Schwendeman, ’10, has a big heart to go along with her caring and warm personality and has always been one of the few ready to lend a helping hand whenever and wherever she can.

Schwendeman started at UCF initially interested in social work, but quickly realized after getting involved with a variety of different student organizations, that she was better suited for volunteer work. She now holds multiple degrees from UCF including two bachelor’s degrees – one in political science and one in sociology, with minors in public administration and women’s studies.

Always eager to get involved, Schwendeman wasted no time upon arriving at UCF finding student organizations that were a good fit for her. She was very active in her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, holding various executive positions as well as planning officer retreats. She also joined Volunteer UCF, where she eventually became the director. Schwendeman was responsible for all aspects of the campus Volunteer Center but especially enjoyed two specific events, Knight-Thon and Alternative Spring Break. She loved watching Knight-Thon become one of the premiere events on campus and UCF’s largest student-run philanthropy, raising over $100,000 to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals of the greater Orlando area.  Schwendeman even credits her best UCF memory to an Alternative Spring Break trip she coordinated and attended in Birmingham, Alabama teaching junior achievement. She explained it as being a truly rewarding experience.

“I was so privileged to have a lot of options available to me. Student organizations like SGA, Volunteer UCF and Alternative Spring Break complement your learning within the classroom and allow you to take on a leadership role in the community. It really helped me figure out what I wanted to do. Being on the board of Volunteer UCF made a huge difference in my life by planning events for other students to get involved and help the community.”

The UCF Creed is Integrity, Scholarship, Community, Creativity, and Excellence. When asked how the UCF Creed had inspired her, Schwendeman said, “Community was a huge part of my experience at UCF. I was volunteering in the UCF community and helping others volunteer. I lived there all four years. UCF is like home. Every time I come back the feeling is still there. Being involved in the UCF community enhanced my life.”

The passion she had for volunteering and planning events has followed her beyond her years at UCF. She has gone on to work for organizations like the Peace Corps, Girl Scouts of Citrus Council, Hands on Orlando and currently works for Heart of Florida United Way as the Manager of Community Participation. Heart of Florida United Way is Central Florida’s most comprehensive health and human services charity and the largest non-profit organization for the region’s most critical health and human service programs.

Schwendeman’s job is to coordinate strategic volunteer engagement opportunities for corporate partners, civic organizations, and affinity groups. Even if a company who is not affiliated with the United Way contacts her wanting their employees to volunteer, she will set them up with a project that will suit their interests and help the community. She also develops and maintains partnerships with local agencies, providing consultative support and resources.

When asked what advice she would give to current students as well as alumni she said, “Get involved with the community at UCF. Look into the Office of Student Involvement because there is something for everybody. Some of the best memories I have are because I was involved. You have a stronger resume and make stronger relationships. Studying and working hard in the classroom is important, but it is also important to get involved. As for UCF alumni, continue working hard and represent UCF.”



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