Student Restores The Community: Bryani Wheaton

Taking the time to give back through community service

Features > Student Restores The Community: Bryani Wheaton
Student Restores The Community: Bryani Wheaton

Kean University prides itself on its community service track record. For ­five ­years, the university has earned the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This award is given to institutions of higher education when they make dedicated efforts to improve the community.

It’s the students, faculty and staff that dedicate their time for volunteer projects, the people who go out week after week to see that the community is truly benefitting from the time being spent there for that sole reason. It’s students like Bryani Wheaton.

Wheaton, who is a senior majoring in criminal justice, is an avid volunteer.

What possesses a person to start their volunteer journey? The answer varies for each person. For Wheaton, though, it was her mom.

“Growing up, my mom kept me active within my community, so volunteering just came naturally to me,” Wheaton said. And that was when her volunteering track record began.

College can be a difficult—and confusing—time for students. Even as graduation inches closer and closer over the years, some students will be frantically trying to figure out what to do with their life. Then there are those who are confident in their academic choices made thus far and choose to set some time aside not for themselves, but for giving back.

Wheaton is the latter. Over her years at Kean University, she has accomplished quite a lot while still having the time to do the things she enjoys.

Her membership to organizations on campus include: Secretary of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Be the Change, Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society, Lambda Alpha Sigma Honor Society, the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, TriBeta National Biological Honor Society, Pre-Medical Pre-Dental Association. And of course, Cougar Volunteers in on the impressive list.

Wheaton’s involvement on campus is impressive, but it took some time to get there.

“When I first came to Kean in 2011, I had trouble balancing commuting to school and being active on campus,” Wheaton shared. “I also wasn't aware of [the] many volunteering opportunities on campus so I stuck to volunteering outside of school. A friend told me about Cougar Link in early 2014 and that's how I got involved with Cougar Volunteers.”

Kean University offers several community service outings. Among the most popular are: Adopt-A-Park, Atria Senior Living, Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity.

“Habitat for Humanity is definitely my favorite service trip,” she said. “I've loved working with my hands since I was a kid and Habitat provides a way for me to do what I enjoy while helping someone else. I've also been able to apply a lot of what I've learned from Habitat to help fix things in my own home.”

Since she has had her hand in various community service projects, Wheaton would like to see a different volunteer opportunity offered to students.

“I think it would be great if Kean [University] could bring a group of students to the pediatric unit of a local hospital a few times a month to help uplift and encourage the kids during their stay at the hospital.”

Many people choose to volunteer here and there, and many people choose to volunteer on a constant basis. What makes them volunteer regularly, though?

“I think most volunteers gain a sense of fulfillment knowing that they have helped someone less fortunate than they are,” Wheaton believes. “The greatest benefit to me from doing community service is knowing that I've helped make someone else's life just a little bit easier.”

While at the start of a volunteer trip, the individuals are aware what they are getting themselves into: dedicating a handful of hours to the betterment of the community. But when they actually start the process of volunteer work, the outing takes the meaning of the trip to a new level, a deeper level. It is because of this feeling that volunteers sign up for community service.