While a service requirement is part of high school graduation, service for many students is not just about reaching a certain number of hours. It’s about passion, giving back to the community, meeting new people, gaining new experiences, and personal impacts.
Some students have earned a lot of volunteer service hours throughout their time volunteering with various organizations.
Sylvia London, a sophomore, volunteers with many different organizations including the Shoreline Farmers Market where London helps run the market and, before Covid 19, helped lead the children’s program, the PoP kids club. She also volunteers at the Museum of Pop Culture where she is a member of the Youth Advisory Board, a group that organizes and creates events and spaces for youth at the museum. In addition, she volunteers with My School Votes, an organization striving to lower race and age gaps in voting, where she works to register high schoolers to vote. She even started a My School Votes club at Shorewood. All her hard work has earned her 327.5 volunteer service hours so far.
London says the drive behind all this volunteering is being able to give back and make an impact, as well as the relationships that have formed in between. “Service means so much more when it’s for an important cause like engaging young people in democracy or cultivating their creativity…From the regulars I see at the Farmers Market to the good friends I’ve made in [the Youth Advisory Board at MoPop], they all mean so much to me,” London said.
London shares that there is more to volunteering than just the hours. It’s really about the organizations. “The fact that I have a lot of hours is mostly just a byproduct of being involved in these organizations that I want to be involved in,” London said.
Having a genuine passion for volunteer service is a primary motivator. “I’m truly passionate about the service work I’m doing, knowing it will have a good effect on my community and generation. It pushes me to work harder and improve as a volunteer,” London explained.
Junior Wolfie Erhart has volunteered at many places including Tree of Life Medical, where he traveled to Mexico to provide medical services missions and was a camp counselor for Wonderland Child and Family Services, an organization focusing on helping kids with developmental delays and disabilities. Erhart has earned 325 volunteer service hours to date.
He describes his volunteer experience as a way not only to benefit the organization he is volunteering for but also allow him to gain new experiences. “It lets you get out there and experience life in a completely new light,” Erhart said.
Yared Eyasu is also a junior earning 162.5 volunteer hours so far, and both Erhart and Eyasu emphasize the idea of making volunteer service a part of their lifestyle.
“I wouldn’t really describe my volunteer service to be a lot. Instead it was just part of my routine. It just became a part of my lifestyle,” Erhart said. He said this is his key to managing to do so much volunteer service.
Similarly, Brenna O’Leary, junior, volunteers with King County Explorer Search and Rescue which has earned her around 700 hours of volunteer service. O’Leary doesn’t seek out the hours but rather the experience she is passionate about that accumulates a lot of hours. “I guess I don’t intentionally try to get a ton of hours, I just do SAR (Search and Rescue) because I enjoy it and we’re so busy that the hours add up quickly,” she said.
Erhart doesn’t think that you have to have certain qualities to be a good volunteer, but it’s about what interests you. “A lot of the time, you can create your own volunteer opportunities if you are dedicated to it,” he adds.
Likewise, Eyasu said he was able to accomplish a hefty amount of volunteer hours by being organized and “making volunteering a part of my life.”
London, Erhart, Eyasu and O’Leary agree that passion is an important aspect of volunteering.
O’Leary uses her passion for the outdoors to give back to others.“Volunteer service is important to me because it’s important to give back, and it feels good to be able to help others, especially in a situation like Search and Rescue (SAR) where their needs are so immediate,” O’Leary said.
She advises others to use their passions as a volunteer opportunity, not only getting your volunteer service hours but also getting to do something you enjoy.
Said O’Leary: “Find something that you are really passionate about and enjoy, and find something related to that. I hike, climb, snowshoe, and ski, so SAR was a good choice because I am able to do all of those things while helping others.
Erhart urges others to give themselves time to slow down and to like what they are doing volunteering or else what is the point? Eyasu agrees. “Don’t volunteer just for the hours. Use volunteering as a way to improve yourself and help your community. It’ll make volunteering more fun and fulfilling,” he said.
Similarly to Erhart, volunteering to gain experience and London’s way of giving back to her community, Eyasu emphasises both.“Volunteer service is important to me because it’s my way of giving back and I use the opportunity to gain experience,” Eyasu said.
Most of the places Eyasu has volunteered, at the YMCA, Shoreline Rec Center, Tiger Tutoring, and Turning Point, have been places that have been significant in his own life.
Knowing the why behind your volunteering is one thing and really the most important, but knowing what and how to actually do the volunteering is another.
London has found most of her volunteer opportunities through family and friends and also checks Ms. Stephens’ weekly emails and clubs she is involved in like drama club and Shorewood’s Symphony Orchestra for new volunteering opportunities. They also recommend staying tuned in to volunteer opportunities in Shoreline through social media.
Managing to fit in a lot of volunteer service can be tough, but London shares that volunteering in the summer has been helpful. As well as having a schedule, prioritizing things like choosing volunteer opportunities over others, communicating well and checking her email are also helpful. Furthermore, it’s important to respond to opportunities timely during business hours, being committed and transparent, and the biggest one to be open and flexible.
London shares that above all passion is the true key to success.
Erhart said that finding volunteer opportunities is, “all about connections,”
“you just gotta put yourself out there and meet new people…Any organization would welcome volunteers. It is just up to you to find something you like, and get involved in it.” Erhart said.
Eyasu said that he found resources to volunteer through his parents, friends and AVID teachers.
London and Erhart make a point to point out that volunteering is a privilege. “Logging volunteer hours does not make you inherently “good”, and not volunteering, does not make you inherently “bad”. Volunteering is simply something I enjoy doing. It’s how I meet people out of Shorewood and stay active in things I’m interested in.” London said.
She shared that they are happy to help if anyone is looking for help getting involved with volunteering
Erhart shared, “there are many students my age that are working jobs to help support their families, and they are racking up many more hours than I am by volunteering. I want people to recognize that, and appreciate the fact that they are putting in just as much (if not more) effort than volunteers.”
From different perspectives, to common grounds, London, Erhart, Eyasu and O’Leary agree that doing what you love is the key to volunteering, leaving those lasting impacts on yourself and your community.