"The Volunteer Who Seeks to Help Others Also Helps Himself"
Staysniak, Christopher. “"The Volunteer Who Seeks to Help Others Also Helps Himself"”, Boston College, 2017. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:107339.
This dissertation examines the development of youth volunteer service in the United States through a constellation of religious, private, and government programs. It explores how this larger impulse, which includes “service trips,” service–learning courses, and postgraduate programs like the Peace Corps, became a normative and ubiquitous opportunity for middle class, and consequently largely white, Americans. This study weaves together multiple programs, and a rich array of ideas and events such as social gospel concerns, pacifism, William James’ arguments for a “moral alternative to war,” gender and class anxieties, Great Depression and Cold War–specific exigencies, the Catholic Lay Apostolate, 1960s student activism, and the War on Poverty. The dissertation further demonstrates the religious roots of this phenomenon, as seen through Protestant and Catholic programs in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Further, it shows that this paradigm of volunteer has always been twofold in its aim; it has focused both on the growth and education of the volunteer as they served others. It also shows that impulse has always been a limited agent for large–scale social change. Service programs were by their nature short–term projects meant to expose and educate volunteers to more entrenched social problems. Finally, while adult organizers often made service opportunities a possibility, it was the desire of many young women and men to “do more” with their time and abilities outside of traditional educational or professional options was the engine that truly drove and grew this movement.