Do you know the difference between UNICEF and Circle K?

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

If your freshman self was anything like mine, a lot of things confused you about Illinois Tech. What were the random wooden benches scattered around campus? What was the deal with “less is more?” Why did everything have to be an acronym?

But among other things, one thing that had me scratching my head was the difference between UNICEF and Circle K. During this year’s student involvement fair, I spent some time squinting between the two booths and trying to discern what made each unique. Two groups of nice, enthusiastic college students looking to do volunteer work. How was anyone expected to make a decision on which to be involved in? A coin flip?

Fortunately, both organizations’ presidents were willing to meet with me and help me understand the difference.

Martae Marshall, president of Circle K, understood my confusion. He pointed out that “the objective [of each] is not different. The way UNICEF is structured is different than Circle K.” There are several ‘tiers’ of Circle K that differ as one grows older. Builder’s Club is for those attending middle school, Key Club for high school students, Circle K for college students, and Kiwanis International for those older than that.

In the past, Circle K has done a multitude of volunteering activities, such as going to the Ronald McDonald house to read and do activities with the children and helping out at the city farm to pull weeds and plant crops. In the future, Circle K has a myriad of new projects planned, all of which involve outreach events like cleaning up the city and teaching children.

UNICEF, on the other hand, focuses mainly on children. In fact, UNICEF stands for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, and it has been at Illinois Tech for only three semesters. However, the organization already has an impressive track record. One volunteering highlight of UNICEF’s past is Keen Chicago, where UNICEF members spent the day playing with children with disabilities to keep them active. Last year, UNICEF attended the national conference in Washington, DC. Out of about 75 organizations, they won most knowledgeable organization, in only their second semester.

According to Wildaline Serin, president of UNICEF, “Every day, about 17,000 children die from preventable causes such as poor water conditions and malnutrition. UNICEF’s main mission is to make that number zero.” Each month, UNICEF has a country and an issue of the month. Their three committees--education, fundraising, and public relations--work together to organize and advertise this event. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the cause in that specific country. This month, UNICEF’s country is Mali and the issue is underage child marriage. So expect a fun event before the month ends that will help combat this issue.

However, while Circle K and UNICEF do have their differences, I was surprised to learn that the national chapters actually work together when their issues overlap.

Interested in joining one or both? Circle K meetings are on Thursdays in Wishnick Auditorium from 12:50 to 1:40 p.m. UNICEF meetings are also on Thursdays, from 12.45 to 1:30 p.m. in LS240. Look up UNICEF @ Illinois Tech on Facebook for further updates.