2016-17 Featured Students
Shelby Ullrich (December 2016)
The holiday season sparks a spirit of generosity in many individuals, whether through exchanging presents, giving an extra donation to a local charity or volunteering time to help those in need. For ISU senior majoring in sociology and active member of the Greek Community and Pi Beta Phi, Shelby Ullrich, the spirit of generosity burns brightly year-round.
In 2015, the Greek Community collectively spent more than 61,000 hours volunteering, an average of 14 hours per community member, and an overall monetary value of more than $1.3 million dollars. Ullrich's contributions to this impressive generosity went well beyond the average, totaling 450 hours — the highest individual commitment of any community member.
"My biggest motivation to donate my time is the people I get to spend time with," said Ullrich. " The reason I spend time serving people is to ensure that they know they are precious and worthwhile!"
She spent most of her individual volunteer hours at Youth and Shelter Services (YSS) in Ames where she worked with teen girls overcoming drug addictions.
While volunteering at YSS, Ullrich was able to mentor a girl who had dropped out of high school. Throughout her time there, Ullrich helped her study for and pass her GED and eventually get into the honors program at the Des Moines Area Community College.
“I had never seen anyone have such an appreciation for learning,” Ulrich said. “We cried together after the last advising meeting we went to because she told me that I was the most involved person in her life ever. All I did was tell her that she was valuable.”
Ullrich also gives back through opportunities with her sorority. As a member of Pi Beta Phi, she participated in a pen pal program that pairs members of the sorority with elementary school children. Ullrich was paired with a 3rd grade student in Ames. In their letters, the pair shared stories, talked about books they read and talked about their friends.
At the end of the semester, the members of Pi Beta Phi were able to meet their pen pals at a party hosted by the elementary school. Ullrich said that her pen pal’s teacher teared up as she shared more about the student with whom Ullrich was paired.
“Since starting to write letters with me, the young boy was able to catch up to his own reading level from reading our letters and racing to read new books to talk about with me,” Ulrich said. “He had been quiet in class, but he had come out of his shell and made friends in his class. I could not believe that writing letters and spending time with a new friend could have such an impact.”
Ullrich furthers her generosity toward community through her sorority's philanthropy: literacy.
In the spring, Pi Beta Phi holds a fundraiser, "Pi Phi Taco Time," where all ticket sales go toward promoting literacy.
"Reading is the foundation to make substantial change in this world," said Ullrich. " To combat illiteracy, we enthusiastically read with children in the Ames area, hold book drives, and share our own love of reading with the community."
As a member of the Greek Community, Ullrich has opportunities to volunteer not only as an individual or with her chapter, but collectively with others in the community. Last year, the Greek Community raised more than $284,000 for the Special Olympics in Iowa through the Polar Bear Plunge event. At this event, individuals raise money and then take the challenge of plunging into icy, cold water.
Whether it be on an individual, chapter or community level, Ullrich continues to leave a lasting impact on the community through her generous gifts of time and resources.
“The Greek Community is extremely proud to call Ames home, and we seek to show this by donating time,” she said. “In addition, serving the community is a unique way to meet people and to find common interests.”
Ulrich already has plans to plunge into a new adventure after she graduates. She will be moving to Thailand next year to serve as an aftercare social worker through International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation and slavery throughout the developing world.
To learn more about Iowa State University’s Greek Community and its copious philanthropic efforts, visit the Office of Greek Affairs' website.