#volunteering

Image of three young people excited about volunteering.

Creating a Volunteer Movement at Your High School

Happy back to school, myKlovr readers. For most of you, school is A LOT different this fall with the COVID-19 pandemic making a proper return to school impossible. As you’re getting used to distance learning, a process that I guarantee is just as difficult for your teachers as it is for you, I want to introduce something you can do to enrich your learning experience.

In this article, we’ll take a look at creating a volunteer movement in your high school. As you’ve seen with our articles about Volunteer Crowd and Best Buddies, there are many ways to volunteer online and in person and share recommendations with your peers and teachers.

Why Create a Volunteer Movement Now?

There are plenty of good reasons to create a volunteer movement, but let’s focus on a few that apply to the here and now.

  • You Have More Time on Your Hands: Although online learning can be just as rigorous as the in-person experience, you have more free time due to not commuting, and, sadly, the lack of traditional extracurricular activities. As a result, you can explore new opportunities to fill your free hours. Volunteering and encouraging others to do the same is an excellent way to spend your time.
  • It Looks Good on a College Application: Starting a volunteer movement, especially one that involves a large number of your peers, can make your college application shine in college admission counselor’s eyes.
  • People in Your Community Need Help: The COVID-19 pandemic has made vulnerable groups even more so, and hundreds if not thousands of people in your local community fall into this category.

How Do I Make a Volunteer Proposal?

Once you decide to create a volunteer movement at your school, you need a proposal that will both do some good for people in need and inspire your peers to help out. Here are some questions to get you going.

  • What are the most pressing needs in my community which volunteers could impact?
  • What skills do my peers and I have that would benefit organizations that need volunteers?
  • How much time per week can my peers and I realistically dedicate to volunteering?
  • How can I create a volunteer movement that will inspire not just people in my grade but all learners at my school?
  • What role do I want to play in this volunteer movement? Leader? Coordinator? Participant?

How Do I Get People to Sign Up?

Now that you have a proposal, you need to get your message to your peers. Fortunately, taking classes online gives you an excellent way to communicate with other students. Let’s look at a few ways you can raise awareness and interest in your volunteering proposal.

  • Discussion Board: Using a classroom discussion board (ask your teacher in advance to set one up for you), you can reach out to your peers or perhaps the entire school. As with any proposal, write at least two drafts and have an adult, preferably your teacher, review it for clarity and grammar.
  • Ask Teachers/Administrators to Signal-Boost Your Ideas: Send your proposal to your teachers/principal to see if they would promote your ideas to the school’s students and staff. They can also offer you valuable feedback to make your proposal more successful.
  • Leverage Volunteer Crowd and Best Buddies: As you know from myKlovr’s other articles, VolunteerCrowd and Best Buddies allow students to volunteer virtually, an excellent option as in-person volunteering is impossible for most students right now. You can discuss these services’ advantages in your discussion board post or another communication method.

How Do I Keep the Movement Going?

Once your volunteer movement starts gaining students’ interest, you have to sustain that interest if you want your movement to last more than a few months. Here are a few ideas to keep your fellow volunteers engaged.

  • New volunteer projects each month.
  • Recognizing top volunteers.
  • Encouraging incoming freshmen with a presentation during a school assembly.

Personally, one thing I would avoid is trying to make volunteering a school graduation requirement. In my experience as a high school teacher, forcing high school-aged students to do anything can backfire tremendously. Also, people who genuinely want to volunteer are likely to do a much better job than those forced to do it.

Final Thoughts

“So shines a good deed in a weary world,” Willy Wonka once said by way of Shakespeare. The world is certainly weary right now, and any good deed has the potential to make our shared situation a little brighter. By creating a student volunteer program, you can make a lasting impact on your community. So, take some time between your Zoom classes and consider how you can help out those in need.

Do some good, myKlovr readers, and stay safe out there.

Three young women casually walking and talking, having fun

Best Buddies – An Excellent e-Volunteering Opportunity for High School Students

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Best Buddies International, an organization that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities. Best Buddies provides not only resources and inclusive living training but also One-to-One Friendships to those in need. These friendships involve pairing a volunteer with an individual Best Buddies serves.

The Best Buddies e-Buddies program allows volunteers of all ages to create a friendship with a person with disabilities. In this time when traditional volunteer opportunities are on hold, e-Buddies represents a great way for high school students to make a positive impact on someone’s life.

To learn more about Best Buddies’ mission and volunteer opportunities, I spoke with the organization’s Palm Beach, Florida, area director Tricia Williams. I believe that our conversation will convince you to reach out and make a new friend this summer.

Note: The author edited some responses for clarity and grammar. 

Thomas Broderick: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about people with disabilities?

Tricia Williams: I think that the typical person is surprised at how much they learn from people with disabilities, as there is a misconception that we need to teach them. I have learned so much about compassion and resilience. Also, there are so many people with amazing skills at levels that others think they would not have because of their disabilities. I think of buddies who have amazing skills in accuracy fields, such as mathematics or measurement.

TB: Why is an organization like Best Buddies necessary?

TW: Best Buddies is necessary to help end the social, physical, and economic isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Our programs empower people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships, secure successful jobs, live independently, and feel valued by society.

TB: What do your volunteers (students or otherwise) say that their main reason for volunteering is?

TW: The main reason is getting to know someone who they believe needs their help or assistance. However, they quickly realize they have so much more to learn from people with disabilities.

TB: If I were a high school student interested in volunteering in the e-Buddies program, what advice would you give me about how to be a good buddy?

TW: A good buddy is just another word for a good friend. I would suggest that this is a friendship like any other but like none other at the same time. Your buddy wants to know all about you, and you should want to know all about him or her. Put in an equal amount of effort into getting to know each other. We have so much more in common than we know and we will only find this out by asking each other, ‘What’s your favorite snack?’, ‘What NFL team are you rooting for?’, ‘Do you prefer TikTok or Instagram?’ It is also important to be responsive often. Remember that there is someone on the other end of that email. Your response might be what they look forward to most in their day.

TB: Are there any other organizations you’d recommend where high school students can volunteer online?

TW: As you understand more about the IDD community, find ways to advocate. Don’t participate in offensive social media that mocks our community. Try to understand the differences so you can celebrate the similarities. Special Olympic athletes are also sitting on the sidelines like you and your football friends are. Best Buddies chapters are offering virtual Ambassador Trainings (those wanting to learn how to advocate for the IDD community), or you can join our virtual events, including yoga & dance classes or online games.

Final Thoughts

Pandemic and social unrest have complicated everyone’s life. While we may understand why these negative events are happening throughout the world, some people with intellectual disabilities cannot. This inability can cause fear, anger, and isolation. In other words, people with intellectual disabilities need a friend more than ever right now.

Finally, remember that as you start your e-Buddy journey, a new friendship will not only improve someone else’s life but also your own.

Person on a laptop computer using video conferencing

Virtual Volunteering and You

If you want to gain volunteering experience – an excellent addition to any college application portfolio – summer 2020 seems like the worst time to do it. The COVID-19 pandemic has made many traditional forms of volunteering impossible. However, organizations around the world need volunteers more than ever. But how to do it safely?

This month, we at myKlovr are examining virtual volunteering opportunities in a two-part series. In this article, please review some virtual volunteering basics. In Part II, we’ll look at one organization, Best Buddies International, which has made virtual volunteering an integral part of its mission to help people with intellectual disabilities.

What is Virtual Volunteering?

As the name suggests, virtual volunteering allows you to help an organization without interacting with other people directly. How does it work? Well, that depends on an organization’s needs. Here’s are some typical examples:

  • Making calls to raise money
  • Writing or editing documents
  • Developing educational materials with a team of volunteers
  • Creating a video
  • Creating a website
  • Making social media posts to raise awareness

How Do I Get Involved?

When you visit an organization’s website, first determine whether they have a virtual volunteering program and if your talents match their needs. If so, send an email to introduce yourself and describe how you can help. Form your email like you would a cover letter.

If an organization does not have a virtual volunteering program, you can still contact them and see if they could use your services. Many organizations that rely on in-person volunteers are struggling right now, and they may bring you aboard if you have a convincing pitch.

How Do I Do a Good Job?

Virtual volunteering resembles the WFH (work from home) many professionals have been doing these last few months. The tasks are approximately the same, but working from home has its challenges. There are plenty of fun distractions, many of which exist on the very computer you use to volunteer.

Virtual volunteering success is two-fold. One, ask your contact to provide you with a solid deadline for your work. Second, create a schedule that provides some break times that are away from the computer or phone you use for volunteering. Until the workday is over, you want to keep your electronics – or at least some of them – for work only.

Another challenge that WFH poses to both employees and volunteers involves communication. If you receive an email or text that you don’t quite get, always clarify. It may feel a bit embarrassing, but many adults – me included – make mistakes when juggling emails with the tons of other things we’re doing online.

Can I Get a Reference?

Before we discuss references, let’s briefly talk about another advantage that virtual volunteering can bring to your college application portfolio. As you volunteer from home, keep track of all work you complete, especially if you’re creating products such as website copy or illustrations. A sample of one of these can make a great addition to a college application.

Back to the references. Just like asking your teacher for a reference, do so as politely as possible. To increase your odds of a great reference, make sure you communicate with your contact person effectively throughout your volunteering experience. Respond to emails in a timely manner and turn in work on time.

As your volunteering time wraps up, make sure to ask nicely and let them know that you’ll be in touch with details once you know which colleges you’ll apply to. In the meantime, send an email every so often to keep them person updated, and maybe ask if you can do anything else for them.

Final Thoughts

COVID-19 has made volunteering incredibly complicated but far from impossible. If you offer your talents to an organization that does some good in the world, they’re likely to accept your help. If you’re forthright and do your best every day, you’re likely to have a positive virtual volunteering experience that will set you up for college admission success.

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