Community Cats: Volleyball’s Weidt Gives Back to Tucson Community
TUCSON, Ariz. – Volleyball's Merle Weidt thrives at giving back to the Tucson community. As a German student-athlete, Weidt volunteers throughout Southern Arizona to give back to the University of Arizona and to the United States for giving her the opportunity to play collegiate volleyball. Weidt's community service includes writing letters to a senior living center, being a student-athlete pen pal, making videos about voting and civic engagement, volunteering at early voting sites, writing 'thank you' cards to healthcare heroes, volunteering at the 'Share the Warmth' donation drive, reading books to local elementary classrooms, and helping place fan cutouts in Arizona Stadium.
Weidt is among the top volunteers among all student-athlete in community service for the 2020-21 school year since transferring from Rutgers in January 2020. As a student-athlete, Weidt finds time when she can to volunteer and has used Zoom to connect and read to local school children. "What makes volunteering fun is when you see people start smiling," said Weidt. "At first, it can be difficult because I'm not from Tucson and don't know anyone. By going out and trying to connect with other people in the Tucson community, I found people that I feel connected to."
One of the elementary schools that she read to consisted of international and refugee students. "It was touching because I didn't know that there were a lot of children who were refugee or international students who have to adapt to a new culture," Weidt said. "I realized that I'm 15 years older and in the same situation as them and I can help them. They love having athletes talk to them and something as small as reading a book to them is the highlight of their day." After experiencing the connection Weidt had with these children, she volunteered to be a mentor to the students as a fellow international student during the upcoming school year.
She has also volunteered with the organization Treffpunkt, a non-profit organization located in Phoenix that supports and promotes German culture in Arizona. With Treffpunkt, she helped set up for their Oktoberfest celebration and connects with Arizona residents who are German or want to learn about German culture. Weidt said helping with Treffpunkt has "reconnected me with Germany and promoting my own culture is something really special."
Although Weidt is not a U.S. citizen, she helped make voting and civic engagement videos and volunteered at early voting sites in the U.S. "Voting rights and civil service is really important in the States," said Weidt. "I'm a global studies major and I'm really interested in international politics. The fact that we have voting rights and the ability to vote is very important and crucial. Even though I'm not a U.S. citizen, it's important to be able to use your voice and educate younger people on how to vote."
Through volunteering, Weidt has connected to the Tucson community through reading to students, writing letters to senior living centers, and connecting with her German culture through Treffpunkt. Weidt added, "it doesn't matter how long you live in a community, it's important to be open-minded and outgoing and try to connect to the community. These are your neighbors and they're a group of people that you have a sort of responsibility for. By volunteering and helping, you are a role model for other people, and you also foster an inclusive environment by connecting to people."