LUCAS OLENIUK/TORONTO STAR
All Ontario students must complete a minimum of 40 hours of community involvement activities in order to graduate. However, with commencement just over two months away, some students in Grade 12 who have not yet put in their volunteer time are panicking.
The Ministry of Education has posted resources to help students and their parents identify the volunteer opportunities they are best suited for, but finding and committing to a volunteer position is still a challenge for many teens.
One excellent resource is charityvillage.com. Volunteer positions are advertised and there is a special section for those looking to fulfil their 40 hour high school volunteer requirement.
There are also many informal opportunities to volunteer that may never be advertised. Volunteering as an usher for a theatre company, for a political candidate or a neighbourhood fund-raiser all fit within criteria recognized by the Ministry of Education. Eligible and ineligible activities are described in more detail here.
To give both youth volunteers and organizations additional practical support, Volunteer Canada in collaboration with Manulife Financial organizations partnered with the Volunteer Action Centre of Kitchener-Waterloo to produce the tools available now on www.GetVolunteering.ca, including the guide “Building Blocks for Youth Volunteering.”
The guide contains a skills self-assessment tool and a skills matching matrix that links issues young people may be passionate about to examples of related volunteer experiences, the specific skills such positions may entail and the paid jobs this type of experience could eventually lead to.
For example, a student interested in sports could consider coaching, volunteering at after school programs or camps, or participating in sports workshops. These volunteer experiences require leadership, communication, problem solving and organizational skills. Future related careers may be sports medicine, personal trainer, physical therapist or recreation facility manager.
Perhaps the most valuable tip in the guide is the reminder that looking for a volunteer opportunity should be viewed as seriously as looking for a paying job. Because volunteering is a privilege and not a right, if an organization is not convinced a student is ready and willing to volunteer, they don’t have to select him for the position.
In a memo posted online, the Halton District Public and Catholic School Boards suggests the following common sense checklist of behaviours before and after students secure their volunteer opportunity:
• Appropriate dress and grooming
• The use of good manners
• A willingness to listen to instructions
• The ability to follow through on commitments
• The ability to maintain confidentiality.
Parental involvement is also essential (particularly for students under 18), to ensure the activities selected are age appropriate and find out if there are any health and safety issues related to the naure of the workforce or hazardous materials/substances.
If your child is completing Grade 8 and doesn’t have summer plans, it may be a good idea to get him started on his community service sooner rather than later. Since last year, enthusiastic young people have been permitted to start accumulating volunteer hours in the summer before they start high school.