Oak Bay students embracing community involvement
Considering Kelly Fitterer’s packed schedule, it’s a wonder she doesn’t travel with a personal assistant.
Instead, her backpack holds her to-do lists, featuring a host of due dates and meeting times. They help her get to her six classes, a part-time job and extracurricular sports and arts.
Her volunteer efforts are equally as demanding, but are a source of pride for the 17-year-old Oak Bay resident.
“By getting involved in your community and activities, you are enriching your life,” said Fitterer, who has spent her final year at Oak Bay High fundraising a small fortune for a multitude of causes. “By being able to embrace all these things, you will grow up to be a more well-rounded person.”
Students in public high schools in the province are required to fulfill at least 30 hours of community service, paid work or a combination of both from Grade 10 to 12.
Fitterer wasn’t aware of the official requirement when asked. But she doesn’t need to keep track, having blown through those 30 hours long ago.
“I think the kids get it,” said Oak Bay High principal Dave Thomson of the willingness of students to make a difference. “We’re so much more presented with the human tragedy.”
Social networking has helped build a global community of young volunteers which “does profoundly good things,” he said. “I do feel like they can make a difference and it’s true, they do.”
At Glenylon Norfolk, a private school attended by more than 100 Oak Bay kids in grades 9 through 12, students are also encouraged to build a solid resume of community service hours.
By graduation, they must have accumulated at least 42 volunteer hours.
“At GNS we stress with our students and families that the realization we are part of a larger community is an essential aspect of education,” principal Rick Calderwood wrote in an e-mail.
“I’m really constantly astounded by these high-achieving, busy youth,” said Leanna Hill, youth program co-ordinator at Volunteer Victoria, which helps connect people – including young people – with hundreds of available volunteer opportunities.
Youth are now expected to give back in some way, which the school district’s 30-hour community service requirement has helped foster.
“We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface (in terms of) the capacity for youth to contribute meaningfully,” said Hill. “Youth are so capable.”