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This study is a qualitative analysis measuring community perceptions of college student volunteers and service learners. The purpose of the study was to examine college student service learning and volunteer activities from the community perspective through data gathered from community agency personnel who work directly with college student volunteers who are serving to meet the needs of youth.

Personnel from 15 community youth service agencies in seven Montana communities were interviewed to determine (a) how agencies ensure and measure the quality and effectiveness of college student volunteer service, (b) the impacts that college student volunteers have at the youth service agencies where they serve, (c) the impacts that college student volunteers have on youth they serve, and (d) what views the community has about college student volunteers as perceived by community agencies.

Data were analyzed using an open coding process and yielded findings in the following areas. College student volunteers positively impact programs operated by the agencies because they provide additional human resources for agencies, they have energy, they are typically young, and they have experience and knowledge that helps them to be effective volunteers. College student volunteers negatively impact agencies because they have varied schedules due to exams and school breaks, and they sometimes require additional supervision. When college students are committed and responsible about the service they provide they have tremendously positive impacts on youth in the areas of self-esteem, academic performance, and social skills. However, when college students drop out of programs early or are inconsistent. the impacts on youth can be devastating. Respondents generally believed the community perceived college student volunteers as responsible and helpful in addressing the needs of youth when the students were committed to volunteering.

The study concludes with recommendations for higher education service learning programs to improve the quality and effectiveness of college student volunteer efforts.

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