Senior class assignment reaps real rewards
The elderly lady glowered at my friend and told her "You read too fast!" and left the room. Thus began my friend's first experience with volunteerism. She had volunteered to read to patients at a local assisted-living facility, and she soon found it was tougher than she thought. Hopefully not all volunteer opportunities begin this way.
If you didn't know, all Wheatland Union High School seniors are required to complete a volunteer project in order to graduate. Few would debate the benefits of this assignment. Helping others and improving yourself is a win-win situation.
Is this what WUHS seniors believe? Or do they see it as just one more requirement added to everything else they have to juggle? "Even if it wasn't obligatory, I'd still do it," said senior Anthony Harmon.
In fact, our high school has more than its fair share of students who are willing to help out in and around Wheatland. There are even two organizations at school that offer volunteer opportunities for students. One is the Key Club, a service organization sponsored by the Kiwanis. Students in this club help raise money for Kiwanis and other local projects.
The second, the California Scholarship Federation (CSF), is a statewide organization that promotes service to the school and community. CSF members tutor other students and help keep our campus clean.
Rebecca Krause, senior and a CSF member, paraphrased a discussion from a recent meeting by saying: "Community service really connects you to others. It can make you feel good by showing you can help those who are worse off than you. It fosters a sense of empathy." Volunteerism may seem like another obstacle to a diploma, but clearly, many people enjoy it.
For some, the problem isn't the community service itself; the problem is not knowing where or how to volunteer. One student mentioned he found his options were limited because of his age. Many organizations require volunteers to be at least 18 years or older. The real trick is not to volunteer just anywhere, but to look for opportunities that match your talents, strengths and interests. This will make volunteering a more rewarding experience and may open up more doors.
Obviously, WUHS students aren't perfect. Some students complete the bare minimum number of hours to meet the requirement. That's one reason why the school system makes the volunteer project mandatory. The hope is that even the most reluctant student will catch the spirit of volunteerism.
That's what happened with my friend at the assisted-living facility. She volunteered to read to elderly patients because she had to; it was a requirement. However, only a few weeks after her discouraging start, she read to the same angry woman. The woman praised her reading abilities and sincerely thanked her for sacrificing her time every week. WUHS students will probably discover the same satisfaction and receive more than they give.
Volunteer. It's the right thing to do!
Meghan Lasswell is a junior at Wheatland Union High School. Her column appears about every sixth week in Education.