Volunteering a high priority for Student Alumni Council president

Jan. 8, 2018Emily Zaffiro ’19 probably has the most unique reason for joining the Grinnell College Student Alumni Council.

At her Milwaukee high school, she was in the Student Activity Council.

“I joined the Student Alumni Council (SAC) at Grinnell because the acronym was the same,” she says. “I really liked the people who were involved in SAC when I joined, and I loved that they make it easier for students to connect with alumni.”

The Student Alumni Council is a student-run group that fosters connections between students and alumni. The council empowers students to be a part of the wider Grinnell community, raises awareness about Grinnell’s history and traditions, and works to develop a culture of service and philanthropy among current students.

Those objectives fit well into the values of the Zaffiro family.

Emily Zaffiro ’19, president of the Student Alumni Council, passes out medallions to the class of 2022 at the annual Medallion Ceremony.
Emily Zaffiro ’19, president of the Student Alumni Council, passes out medallions to the class of 2022 at the 2018 Medallion Ceremony.

“I was raised in a family that volunteers and gives time and money to organizations that they believe in,” she says. “I did community service when I was younger in the Girl Scouts. Grinnellians have a tradition of putting in time and money to the College, so I wanted to give back too.”

Zaffiro, joined the Student Alumni Council in 2016 and served as the group’s philanthropy chair during the 2016-2017 school year. The following academic year she served as a 2019 class ambassador, which entailed planning events, workshops, and other activities to build affinity amongst her classmates. This school year, Zaffiro is SAC president and serves on the Senior Gift Committee. She also has worked for Phonathon for the past two years.

“As SAC president, Emily has worked diligently to lead its members, making improvements to better the group and their efforts,” said Mitch Wolff, assistant director of student programs for Development and Alumni Relations. “Emily has a strong passion for service on campus and in the Grinnell community in general. She has coordinated a community meal along with countless student initiatives, and successfully planned an entire week’s worth of activities to recognize campus philanthropy.”

Among Zaffiro’s proudest accomplishments is organizing the student talent show during National Philanthropy Week in November. To commemorate the week, SAC planned daily events that reinforced the four themes of philanthropy: time, talent, treasure and ties.

Zaffiro didn’t know what it would take to put on an event that featured 41 students in 13 acts.

“The show was very stressful, but it was such a great experience for those involved,” she says. “We really did showcase the student talent in Grinnell in front of about 200 attendees.”

Zaffiro and her dad toured 22 schools during Emily’s college search. They discovered several great things about Grinnell, such as the College’s mac and cheese club. She applied early decision, was offered great financial aid, and the rest is history.

“I feel that I have grown exponentially since coming here,” Zaffiro says. “I wouldn't be where I’m now if not for Grinnell.”

Zaffiro is completing her sociology degree with a concentration in policy studies. Her next step is pursuing a master’s program in public policy.

She recommends that Grinnell students and alumni explore ways to volunteer.

“There are 100-plus ways to give back,” she says. “For alumni, they can take part in Global Day of Service, regional events, mentor students, or offer housing to student doing internships.

For students, there are a number of options, such as the Social Justice Action Group that coordinates a Grinnell Community Meal at Davis Elementary School every Tuesday. I have found that volunteering enhances my world view.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro and Claudia Beckwith ’77, Alumni Council

For your information:

Learn more about the Student Alumni Council. For a full list of alumni volunteer opportunities, please visit our Volunteer Opportunity webpage.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.