By Alexandria Cannito

In high school I was given the opportunity to use my passion for music to help others. The organization I joined was called “Voices of Youth” and we sang at various events around town in support of the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.

During each of the events, we met children who were suffering from a variety of terrible diseases, including cancer. It was heartbreaking to see, but the kids always had a smile on their face and they loved to hear the music. There was one particular little girl who made a lasting impression on my life. She was at every single event we preformed at and she would always come over to hang out.

Her mother said that hearing the songs made her day, and it was the thing that she looked forward to most when going to these fundraising events. It felt amazing knowing we were able to make a difference in the life of a child. This was my first encounter with people struggling with cancer, and at the time I had no idea how great of an impact the cause would later have on my life.

Through the opportunity to work with children battling deadly diseases, I found a new appreciation for being blessed with good health and knew that this was a cause I would want to give back to for years to come.

Most people have had experiences that have tugged on the heartstrings and it’s through those difficult times that we find passion and the urge to give back. It’s for this reason that I strongly believe college students should find a cause that’s important to them and give back to that community.

Nearly four years later I’ve found myself getting involved with another organization working to put an end to childhood cancer: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I was fortunate enough to find an organization on Nevada’s campus that allows me to use my passion for social media all while giving back to a cause that’s near to my heart. The club, Up ‘Til Dawn, puts a twist on community service by giving college students the chance to raise money in order to participate in a night full of fun.

For students to be truly driven to volunteer, it’s important that they find organizations that allow them to combine their passions and talents. Because of resources in the classroom, college students are given the opportunity to use their newfound skills in the community. In my experience, I have been able to use my knowledge of social media to promote Up ‘Til Dawn’s inaugural event on the University of Nevada’s campus.

The organization gathers the student body for a night full of food, music and games, all while raising money for St. Jude. The connection with St. Jude was one of the major reasons I wanted to become connected with Up Til’ Dawn. I have always been impressed that St. Jude has helped push overall childhood cancer survival rates from 20 percent back in 1962 to 80 percent today.

Thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated students, our club has already raised over $12,000 for the event in March, making us confident that we will reach our $50,000 goal. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to spread the word about St. Jude and everything the organization does for families in need. Helping others get involved with an organization that I love truly makes me feel like I am making an impact that may save a child’s life one day.

While not everyone has dealt with a friend or family member with cancer, I urge you to volunteer in the community. The Boys and Girls Club, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, the Nevada Humane Society and the Special Olympics are just a few organizations here in Northern Nevada that you can get involved with. Yes, community service looks great on a resume, but it’s the life changing experience you get from helping others that will make a lasting impression on your life.

If you’re looking for another way to give back, just head to for a full list of organizations in need of your help. If you’re like me, and hope to get others involved with St. Jude, check out “Up ‘Til Dawn Nevada” on Facebook. Don’t wait another day, the time to get involved and make a difference is now!

Alexandria Cannito studies journalism. She can be reached at and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.