To graduate high school in Ontario, students must complete a minimum of 40 community hours. The idea is to promote youth involvement in and around the community, so students can develop skills early on that will give back in the future. As a freshman in high school, I’ve had no pressure to get involved anywhere that I don’t have to. There’s plenty of time left for me to complete my hours; but I figured that while I have the time, I may as well go do something. Around early November in 2016, I decided that I’d start looking for opportunities around my community. I knew my passions: animals, writing, the environment… not little kids. I began my search on Google, which, unfortunately, didn’t get me very far. I kept searching though, this time through the very helpful and very useful site Volunteer Toronto. Still, I didn’t have enough motivation to look further than a quick browse.
I don’t remember where, but I heard about a volunteer opportunity at an animal shelter and hastily filled out an application. I sent it in, and never heard back. I stopped looking for a while, and only when checking out Volunteer Toronto randomly one day did I see that a volunteer fair was happening near me. I took some initiative and ordered two tickets for it, one for me and one for my mom. At the fair, I immediately went to the environment section, and wrote my email on as many organization papers as I could. I walked around for a while, signed up for a couple more volunteer opportunities in other areas, and just before I left, I found my calling: a new website for young people to voice their opinions, tell stories and build community through writing. If you haven’t got it yet, I’m talking about INKspire.
Image Source: Live Richly
After becoming an actual writer on an actual website with an actual position (which I promptly bragged to my older brother about, claiming that I had accomplished so much more than him already) I found my communication skills improved in an increasing boom. Suddenly, I wasn’t nervous to get in touch with people in other organizations for volunteer opportunities. I was taking initiative in things I wouldn’t have before, and though I’ve always considered myself a leader on some degree, I began doing more in my community because I had the skills to.
For Earth Day, I registered my friends and I for a cleanup in our community. This summer, I’m volunteering for various arts events that take place all across Toronto. I even got my friend to sign up as well. Another one of my friends and I are designing and painting a community shed. I’ve realized that everything I’ve been doing recently hasn’t been taught to me in school. Instead, it’s a looped learning. The more events and organizations I get involved with, the more I learn. All the skills on the spectrum of leadership and success have been taught to me through taking one step of initiative. And from developing those skills, I’ve gotten to doing more.
By getting involved in my community regularly and having a long-term position on INKspire, I’ve also learned how to manage my time. Clubs consume a good two hours after school, walking my dog another hour, and then comes homework. Some days I have hardly any; others, the amount can be pretty overwhelming. But I’ve found that there’s always time, it’s just about figuring out how to regulate it. More responsibilities forces me to make sure there’s enough time, and knowing that I enjoy what I’m doing means I don’t get overly stressed. Having a solid grasp on time management has also continued to help me throughout the year, especially with exams. Skills like these even outlast high school, and continue to reap benefits for future years.
Image Source: CBC
Completing the 40 community hours for high school should be anything but dreaded. It’s such a small act, and many times you gain as much as you give, or more. It’s a way to satisfy and work on a passion that sometimes isn’t prodded at in school, meet new people and develop communication skills as well as connections, and get that pat-on-the-back feeling for doing something that doesn’t directly concern you. You don’t have to be a by-the-books leader to take on some leadership, and the best way to find that leadership is by going and doing something. The 40 hours fly by pretty quickly, but what you gain from it lasts a whole while longer.