When Nelnet talks about giving back to the communities we live and work in, it’s not just something that sounds good to say out loud. It’s part of who we – and our associates – are as people. And that passion for serving communities goes beyond our full-time associates.

We talked to three Nelnet interns who are passionate about volunteering and impacting their communities – here’s some of the highlights.

Spencer Tuominen, business intelligence intern

Megan Wright, IT intern

Cole Nelson, IT application security intern

Where do you volunteer?

Spencer: I volunteer at Feed My People, a food bank in Eau Claire. I got involved because I’m a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary (or NRHH). This organization is centered on some pillars or values which are leadership, recognition, scholastics, and service. The emphasis on service is a big reason I joined (and still participate in) NRHH.

Megan: I first got involved with a branch of Girls Who Code that was run by a friend, and we decided we wanted to start our own organization so we could have more freedom of curriculum design and get funding from our university more easily. Thus Girls in Tech was born! We work with Lincoln elementary schools to run after-school clubs for third through fifth grade girls where we teach basic coding concepts and build girls’ confidence in their abilities.

Cole: I’ve been volunteering with Circle K International, the world’s largest student-led community service organization, since I began attending the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. I heard about them from a friend who saw them at the fall student organization fair, and I knew they were a branch of the Kiwanis Family (like Key Club, which is focused on high schoolers). I enjoyed volunteering with Key Club in high school, so I figured I’d give Circle K a shot. Circle K helps out in a wide variety of ways: soup kitchens, library events, school activities, road cleanups, fundraising operations, and so much more. I’ve had a lot of fun and met several of my college friends through Circle K while also helping out the community.

Why is volunteering important to you and what impact it has had on your life?

Spencer: I have been trying to volunteer as much as I can since high school. I actually first volunteered at Feed My Starving Children in middle school. I still remember it so well – I was a runner and moved large quantities of food to stations where people packed them. At that young age I didn’t fully comprehend the impact of what I was a part of but as I got older I realized, I had this time that others didn’t, and I wanted to use it to help others.

Megan: Closing the gender gap in STEM is something I am very passionate about, and I believe that it all starts with helping children have confidence in their capabilities and intelligence, and providing strong examples of women fearlessly doing what they love. Each week when I help my kids make animations in Scratch (a programming language), or make bracelets that say their initials in binary, I’m doing more than teaching them how to do computer science: I’m teaching them that they can. I’m showing by example that girls can love computers, girls can love math, girls can be smart and nerdy and girly all at the same time and it’s not a contradiction.

Cole: Most obviously, volunteering helps the community. There are a variety of underfunded community projects that would not be possible without the work of volunteers. Furthermore, there are many individuals who need the assistance of volunteers in their own lives. However, volunteering is not just all about altruism. Selfishly, volunteering is good for yourself in two ways: it lets you accomplish something meaningful and engage with others.

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of your volunteer experience?

Spencer: Working with the people that run volunteer operations. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Also, knowing that you can have an impact no matter how small you think it is.

Megan: My main goals are building the kids’ confidence and giving them a basic understanding of computing concepts and logical thinking. Seeing either of those things start to click for a kid is the most rewarding feeling in the world. Teaching is hard, but it’s so worth it to see the results.

Cole: Among many other things, getting to know new people!

It’s easy to believe volunteering is important, but much harder to put it into action. We’re so proud of our interns for choosing to make a long-lasting impact in their communities.