Volunteer Spotlight: Justin Pappachan

April 20, 2023

Many college students are attracted to volunteering for two primary reasons: They have a desire to give back to their communities and they want to build their resumes, so they stand out to prospective employers.

Students learning experientially

Justin Pappachan was doing a Google search to identify service opportunities for students involved in the University of Cincinnati’s Campus YMCA, a student-run movement that empowers youth changemakers to think big by providing them with access to experiential learning opportunities. He knew he had hit on something significant when he came upon The Chatfield Edge’s vision to equip non-traditional and underserved students with resources to help them attain the education they desire. A sophomore majoring in Operations Management and Law and Society, Justin’s wisdom and ability to see a bigger picture beyond his own experience make him a perfect volunteer for The Chatfield Edge.

Students struggling to succeed

Growing up in a middle-class family in a Cincinnati suburb, Justin knew he would attend college and acknowledged his supportive parents and privilege in being able to do so. Once he started his studies at UC, he quickly realized that not everyone arrives on campus with the support they need to succeed and not everyone stays. “It’s never just one thing that can send someone spiraling,” he noted. “It can be finances, coursework that’s too hard, unexpected life events, and relationship challenges.” For the past two years, he’s watched talented students leave college due to anxiety, financial hardship, and the inability to keep up with academic rigor. “I really wanted them to succeed but life wasn’t just right for that to happen.”

As the current Director of Community Affairs for UC’s Student Government, Justin leverages his role to engage other students with the local community to pursue passions and social movements. He’s gotten involved in problem-solving short-term campus issues like pedestrian safety as well as addressing longer term challenges like the current student housing shortage. But what seems to bring him even greater energy and vitality is working to ensure that his peers can attain an education.

Students supporting students

Justin reached out to David Hesson at The Chatfield Edge to see how he and other students might get involved. When he learned there was a need for volunteers for the April 15 “Celebrating Our Scholars Brunch,” he put the word out via his UC networks and mobilized a team of seven volunteers to help set up for the event. This was no small feat given that UC was headed into final exams the week of the brunch!

Looking forward, Justin hopes to work with The Chatfield Edge to engage UC students as peer mentors, especially for young people who have taken a break from college and are trying to come back. “There’s a stigma associated with being out for a while,” he commented, and believes that peer mentoring can be helpful as students transition back to college. “We are students, too, so we can relate to some of the stress. We can guide returning students by connecting them with a student in their program who can help them manage workflow and meet deadlines. And sometimes people just need someone to talk to.”

As we wrap up Volunteer Appreciation Month, we are grateful for Justin’s passion and commitment to our mission. The Chatfield Edge serves non-traditional college students of all ages as well as people who are enrolled in trade schools and certificate programs. If you are interested in serving as a mentor with The Chatfield Edge, we would love to talk to you! We provide training to equip you to lead others to attain the education they desire.  Click here to learn more.