Cultivating Responsible Citizenship and the Benefits of Student Volunteerism in Our Community

Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer.
—Author Unknown

There is a diverse and plentiful assortment of benefits associated with volunteerism, particularly among young people, and incorporating it into curriculum is a powerful way to introduce it in a way that allows students to see how their efforts can make a difference in their communities. Both independently and as part of the volunteer service component of the required Senior Seminar Civics class—which is designed to promote responsible citizenship—CHS students volunteer in a wide range of programs and services throughout our area. The Vermont Respite House, the Ronald McDonald House, a number of area food shelves, Women Helping Battered Women, the Lund Family Center, and the Humane Society of Chittenden County are just some of the organizations with which students have offered volunteer service. CHS Humanities educator Erin Brady recently coordinated a volunteer opportunity at Burlington’s Dismas House as one option for students to fulfill some of the ten hours of volunteer service for her Senior Seminar Civics class. Along with Ms. Brady and a dedicated parent volunteer, a group of ten students planned, shopped for, and prepared a dinner for residents at the home.

Teacher Erin Brady with CHS Senior Seminar Civics students

Along with allowing them to see that they can make a difference in their community and in the lives of others, volunteer service can also be a positive and productive use students’ leisure time. Coordinating volunteer opportunities for our students as part of their cumulative academic experience also connects their curriculum with preparation for their futures. Volunteer service provides students with the ability to gain valuable work experience that enhances resumes and college applications while simultaneously allowing them to explore their interests and discover new passions. It also helps foster the development of leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills, all of which are highly relevant in the job market. Real-life applications of experiences gained as the result of volunteer opportunities can include social work, counseling, government and policy making, fundraising and corporate giving, public relations, and community organizing and activism just to name a few.

Activism and volunteerism are alive and well in our community, as well. Last spring, CHS students joined forces to help in the Lake Champlain flood relief efforts, and more recently, student activists in every school in our district rolled up their sleeves to help people in communities all across Vermont who were impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Irene.

Volunteering can be an exciting, growing, enjoyable experience. It is truly gratifying to serve a cause, practice one’s ideals, work with people, solve problems, see benefits, and know one had a hand in them.
—Harriet Naylor

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