As a first-generation college student, Charles Schmitz admits that the cost of college is “a little scary” for him and his parents.
That is why receiving the 2013 Binghamton University Forum Scholarship is special for Schmitz.
“It has meant a lot less worrying for my parents and me,” said the sophomore from Eden, near Buffalo. “It’s all new to us: There is the tuition and the expenses that go with (college). My family doesn’t have money to just throw around. This scholarship has given us some peace of mind.”
The scholarship, which Schmitz received for his campus volunteer work, will help Schmitz pursue his goal of conducting research in his major: integrative neuroscience.
In fact, the opportunity to do undergraduate research is what made Binghamton University appealing to Schmitz.
“Neuroscience is a more recent development and is relatively new,” he said. “There is a lot of room to leave your mark.”
Schmitz got a taste of undergraduate research when he spent the spring of 2013 working with former associate professor Jilla Sabeti. Schmitz said he is looking forward to returning to research and hopes to go to graduate school in his field.
He likes how research at Binghamton is accessible to undergraduates and is promoted to them, too.
“There are large classes here, but it doesn’t really matter because professors are eager to get to know students,” he said. “If you visit them during office hours, they love to speak with you. ... (Binghamton University) is a big school, but the campus isn’t overwhelming. It’s just getting better and better.”
Volunteer work is the area where Schmitz has made his mark during his short time on campus. His initial community involvement came with the American Red Cross Club, as he participated in numerous blood drives as a freshman.
Schmitz’s interest in computers then drew him to the Center for Civic Engagement’s Bridging the Digital Divide Project. The program, a collaboration between the CCE and more than a dozen Binghamton-area community groups, provides refurbished computers and free computer literacy education to local residents. Schmitz assists in refurbishing donated computers.
“I knew I wanted to do more volunteering and I found something that was technical,” he said. “I’m comfortable with computers. It’s fun to take them apart and put them back together.”
Schmitz, who also is a percussionist in the University Wind Symphony, understands why volunteering is so crucial. It is something he has been a part of since high school, when he worked at food pantries and coached youth in a Model United Nations Club.
“Volunteer work is important because I’m young, I’m healthy and I’m able to do more,” he said. “It seems like it is my responsibility to do what I can to help those who cannot.”