Volunteering around the world is ‘no big deal’ for Octavia Carson

While growing up, Octavia Carson’s mother picked up a second job in order to send her to a private school that valued the importance of service and utilized their ability to give back.

She tutored after school and went to the soup kitchen in her spare time. Her mother also took her to the Salvation Army to donate a bag full of clothes, regardless if they still fit.

Carson, now a junior, joined a group during her freshman year called Public Service Residential Community where she put in 30 hours a week volunteering during summer before school started.

“I’ve always wanted to give back in the community where I am living,” she explained. “I moved to Mount Pleasant being more familiar with the neighborhoods and surroundings before I even knew the buildings where I had classes.”

Beyond national boundaries, Carson has been to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Dominican Republic volunteering her time with various projects and programs.

The Dominican Republic trip sticks out to Carson because their organization was able to help children in an orphanage and help their community become cleaner. Her group participated in teaching the children English and helping fix their garbage and recycling system become safer during their week visit.

Carson laughs when she talks about the way her friends act about her volunteering passion.

“Every time I post about my trips and activities on Facebook my friends comment saying ‘you’re always trying to save the world,’ and I’m just trying to get them to join my volunteering and recruit them,” she said. “I want them to experience it with me because it’s so life-changing.”

This December, she will go to Poland and Germany to volunteer with other Central Michigan students through the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center.

Carson simply shrugs off her work like it’s no big deal.

“This is what I do, and I need to keep learning throughout my college years because this is a time of value and growth,” she said. “That’s why we have movements and education, fresh minds innovate and shape social justice, just like going green, we build the empire for our future.”

At the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center Carson has served as the Special Events Coordinator for the past two years. Director Rachel Dybicki described her as dedicated and enthusiastic about her volunteering work.

Octavia Carson prepares popcorn with the rest of the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center's special events committee. (Photo | Kevin Reeves)
Octavia Carson prepares popcorn with the rest of the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center’s special events committee. (Photo | Kevin Reeves)

“Octavia is always looking to help out in projects and whenever we need someone to step up as a leader she is more than willing,” Dybicki said.

Whether it is fundraising for the mobile food pantry or assisting at the Special Olympics, Carson has assisted with a variety of opportunities in Mount Pleasant.

“I don’t even think about ‘if’, it’s a habit now,” she said. “When it’s August, I know it’s time to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, it’s just become second nature.”

Her coworker at the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center, Scott Stewart, said he looks up to Carson and her commitment within her work to continue expanding her volunteering efforts.

The list of compliments received could go on for hours but at the end of the day ,everyone seems to agree on one thing, Carson does not stop going when it comes to volunteer work and there is no end in sight.