Places to volunteer wanted by high school students - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Places to volunteer wanted by high school students

October 12th, 2021 development
Places to volunteer wanted by high school students

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

There are some obvious aspects of the high school experience that students have missed out on during the pandemic –  proms, hanging out with friends at school, even sitting in the same classrooms with their teachers.

But there have been some less obvious aspects as well.

“We are hearing from principals that students still are having a hard time going in, and being able to volunteer in spaces, because COVID is still in existence,” said Dr. Jennifer Fletcher, Chandler Unified School District’s executive director of accountability, assessment and research.

For many high school students, community service is a vital part of their learning experience. It’s also a key part of any college application.

But that’s not all it is.

“It comes back tenfold,” said Kirstin Gregg, a counselor at Perry High School. “They get that first-hand experience in a field that they may want to pursue. For some, it confirms this is what they’re passionate about. For others, they learn this is not what they want to be doing.”

One Perry High student who had a hard time volunteering because of the pandemic is senior Moira MacCatherin.

She plans on being a nurse and wanted to volunteer to work at a hospital, just when all hospitals were trying to keep people away to keep their staffs healthy.

“At first it was really difficult, because everything was shut down,” Moira said. “For my own family’s safety, I didn’t know how much I wanted to be out.”

Moira had been working with HonorHealth as a member of its Medical Explorers club throughout high school. That gave her an edge when a volunteering opportunity came up.

Last December, she helped staff a drive-through lane for people who were eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The vaccine was honestly one of the most fun times I’ve had volunteering or not in my whole life,” she said. “It was absolutely incredible. The cars, the people in them, were crying because they were so excited to receive this vaccine.

“I know a lot of times volunteering you don’t feel that community, like just because you’re volunteering doesn’t mean you feel community support but at the vaccine clinic you absolutely did.”

It was that experience, plus her work with the Medical Explorers, that helped her land another volunteer job, this time in the neonatal intensive care unit at Shea Medical in Scottsdale.

“It was being on that nursing unit that really inspired me to apply to become a nurse,” the Chandler resident said. Moira said she’s been accepted into the nursing program at Arizona State University.

Perry High counsel Gregg said she’s one of the lucky ones to have found a volunteer job during the pandemic. Others who have been looking have not.

“It’s really unfortunate and disappointing for them, but none of us have had to live through a pandemic, at least in my lifetime,” Gregg said. “It’s definitely taken a toll.”

Gregg said community service opportunities teach students responsibility and accountability. Those jobs help them mature, in addition to giving them some valuable experience in a field they are passionate about.

“There’s infinite value in it, both for the businesses and the students,” Gregg said.

She said the highly-motivated students are pursuing opportunities in medical, engineering, and cybersecurity.

CUSD does not make community service a requirement for graduation. Both Gregg and Moira agreed with that policy, but they would strongly encourage it.

“When you make something a requirement, you might get people not doing it for the right reason, or not putting forth their best effort,” Moira said.

“People can volunteer without it being required, that’s part of the beauty of it. You don’t have to be required to benefit your community.”