Whether it’s helping out jungle cats in need in North Carolina or right here on campus, Wilkes University senior Caitlin Klinger is dedicated to supporting her community any way she can.
“I came to Wilkes as an early childhood education major with a concentration in special education and I always thought I wanted to be a teacher. But I realized that the actual teaching part was not what drew me, it was working with the students,” Klinger explains. “So when I was volunteering with the Luzerne County Special Olympics, the office of civic engagement gave me the chance to start recruiting volunteers. I realized I didn’t need to be a teacher to do things like this. This made me happy.”
Drawing on her own community service experiences, Klinger was named the civic engagement coordinator for first-year student orientation. Klinger helps incoming students “form relationships outside of the University and make a difference as new Colonels,” she explains. “I feel lucky to get to see each project as they’re going on.”
In her role, Klinger is responsible for working with local non-profits, churches, schools, etc. to coordinate service projects for the incoming Wilkes students and their peer mentors to complete during orientation. Klinger explains she’s been working since May to secure sites and has confirmed and helped organize service projects with 29 different local organizations for both orientation sessions. Activities ranged from baking dog treats to be donated to Blue Chip and the SPCA to hosting a bingo event at the Wilkes-Barre Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Aside from her civic engagement role in orientation, she participates in numerous community activities. “I have been in charge of coordinating Wilkes University students as volunteers for the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania Luzerne County Bowling Invitational for the past three years,” she adds. Klinger also had the opportunity to give to a community outside of her own as she attended an alternative spring break service trip to North Carolina to volunteer at the Carolina Tiger Rescue this past semester.
“Why wouldn’t I give my time to help my community if I can?” Klinger says. “The nice thing about community service is that it’s not about me and what I’m doing, it’s about the impact that is made and left. “
With the first orientation session under her belt, the Reading, Pa., native explains that it’s been a meaningful experience. “I get to work with a great staff and I’m gaining so much experience in event planning and non-profit work that will be helpful in my eventual career search.”
As a sports management major, Klinger has held internships with the Reading Royals and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. This fall she will be interning for Student Development on campus. Her internship experience has been valuable as she took on the role of civic engagement coordinator. “I’ve been working in the Civic Engagement Office for three years which is what inspired me to apply to be the Civic Engagement Coordinator,” she says. “I feel like I’m very comfortable working with local non-profits as well as the orientation staff.”
Looking ahead, Klinger hopes to work with the Special Olympics USA in the Inclusive Youth Leadership department or to work in community outreach for a professional sports team.
When she isn’t securing volunteer positions for orientation, you can find Klinger on-stage as a member of the University Chorus and Chamber Singers. This past school year she served as the choral librarian and the choral club vice president.
Klinger explains that Steven Thomas, professor of music and chair of performing arts and Megan Boone-Valkenburg, coordinator of student development have been role models. “(They) have both played a huge role in my experience at Wilkes, offering me guidance and direction whenever possible. Without either of them, my experience here would have been completely different and I am thankful for that every day.”
That guidance is something Klinger hopes to share with the newest class of Colonels. “Everyone I met was friendly and helpful and I could really feel a strong sense of family within the campus community. I have always felt comfortable and at home at Wilkes,” she says, adding, “I had a great time at my own orientation and was able to make connections that I can still rely on today and my hope is that new students are able to have the same experience.”
With the final orientation session nearing, Klinger offers her best advice to incoming students—“take risks and always be open to new adventures. Wilkes has so many great things to offer and getting involved is the best way to make your new home here.”