“Hours away” from Graduation? How to make the most of your 40 hours.

Sonya Friesen

We’ve all heard of it, dreaded it and eventually will complete it; it’s the illusive, mandatory 40 hours of community service needed for current high school students to graduate university.

For most of us, the number 40 doesn’t seem like a lot…unless you’re an upcoming high school graduate preparing to leave high school and looking to fill those necessary 40 hours. It can be hard to devote your time, gather the energy and finally commit to a volunteer project, but volunteering doesn’t need to be boring.

To be honest, high schools are doing exactly what they should be doing – preparing students to enter a world where they will need to become involved and active in the community in order to meet friends, network with potential co-workers, and become successful. In a world that is built around financial gain and business, high schools have incorporated a way of highlighting the importance of giving back to the community into the graduate requirements.

For all of you reading this who are currently trying to fill your hours and wishing that they were nonexistent, take it from a fairly recent high school graduate, I wish I had taken the volunteering requirements more seriously because, simply, volunteering will open so many new doors for you.

So how can you make the most of your 40 hours? Follow these simple suggestions; you will fill your hours and, I know you will even have fun doing it.

  1. Get your friends together.

It’s your last year of high school which means that you and your friends will be heading in different directions come fall. Take this as an opportunity to get in some last minute bonding time with the people you’ve shared your life with for the last four years. Get your friends together and organize a community ball hockey tournament, sign up with a group of friends to help out at a local organization. When you’re with your friends, you can find a way to make anything fun.

  1. Volunteer for an organization that interests you.

Do you like animals? Why not reach out the Ottawa Humane Society. Do you like art? Why not volunteer at a local art gallery. Volunteering doesn’t need to be boring. Everyone has something that interests them, and there are many opportunities that would allow you to do something you love, and fill those hours at the same time. Trust me, when you find an organization you enjoy working with, those 40 hours will fly by and before you know it, 40 hours will have turned into 60 or even a year-long adventure.

  1. Use your connections.

A network is a group or system of interconnected people or things. You may not realize it, but you have already started building your own network. Do you play on a hockey team? Why not ask if you can work the 50/50 raffle during the upcoming tournament. Do your friend’s parents volunteer on a board or for a local charity? Ask them if there are any opportunities that they think might interest you. You have your own connections – learn to use them!

  1. Go in with a positive mind.

In life, you get out the equivalent of what you are willing to give. We get it – you have five hours of math homework, dance class, and test in one week; the last thing you want to do is take up even more of your limited free time with a volunteering commitment. Many people head into volunteering with one thing in mind – getting it over with. The problem is that you have already created a constructed idea of what volunteering will be like, and I’m willing to bet, you aren’t planning on putting too much effort into it. Going into volunteering with an open mind about what it could potentially lead to or ready for a new experience, is the best view you can have on it. It is time consuming, yes, but it is a fantastic way to meet new people, become engaged in the community and feel like you are making a difference. What’s the point of being miserable? Go into volunteering with a positive mindset; you will enjoy it more than you expected to.

  1. Think ahead.

One of the words that you will get tired of hearing by the time you graduate university is the word ‘networking’. You can never know enough people, be involved in enough extra curricular activities, or participate in enough events. The more people you know, the larger your network becomes. Networking will become one of the building blocks of your future career. Luckily for you, you get to start early! Volunteering offers an incredible opportunity to meet people in all stages of life, introducing you to people who can offer you opportunities and experiences that you would not have been able to get otherwise. Volunteering may be unpaid – but it doesn’t mean you can’t get something out of it. Volunteering is an amazing way to meet new people and network. Trust us, your future self will thank you.

  1. Keep it up!

Community involvement doesn’t end at 40 hours. New volunteer opportunities are popping up every day and the need for volunteers is constant. You may be done your high school requirement, but there are so many more reasons to continue to be involved in the community. Volunteering is a stepping-stone to success – it’s up to you how you approach it.

If you are looking for volunteering opportunities, check out the ChangeTheWorld Campaign – a campaign dedicated to helping high school students make a difference in the community, while giving them the opportunity to meet their 40-hour community service requirement. Check it out here, http://volunteerottawa.ca/youth/ 

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