Teen Volunteers: Students stay just until their hours are done

Students are adopting a ‘get in, get out’ policy when it comes to volunteering.

With the compulsory 40 hours of community service students must complete in order to graduate, many organizations find it hard to continuously replace volunteers.

Shagana Jeyakumar says a few words at the volunteer appreciation day she helped organize for the Canadian Cancer Society in Scarborough. “I find the commitment level isn’t really good,” said Michelle Joseph, coordinator of volunteer services at the Boys and Girls Club of east Scarborough. “I’m just here to do the 40 hours, I’m going to hurry up and get it done, and that’s pretty much it.”

Joseph says she is unsure of why students only want to volunteer for a minimum amount of time, but says factors such as school, homework, and even familial and cultural viewpoints play a role in their decisions.

“I would say culture has a lot to do with whether a kid moves on and does more volunteering,” Joseph said. “I find with some specific cultures they’ll have their kids do the volunteering, commit to the 40 hours during the summer and as soon as school starts they can’t volunteer anymore…and we understand that.”

Helen Taylor, unit manager at the Canadian Cancer Society finds students leaving after 40 hours can be challenging to deal with, especially when they find themselves constantly training people.

“We do have some volunteers who come in and take on a volunteer position in the office and do 40 hours and leave,” said Taylor. “And that does hurt us because we do a lot of training with them, especially if they are learning how to do data entry and process donations”

But even though it may be hard to have teen volunteers stick around, Taylor said they still have some committed students come in.

“We have some volunteers who are in high school who take on a much more active role, Taylor said. “They have far surpassed the 40 hours.”

Shagana Jeyakumar, a grade 11 student and a volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society, finds volunteering helps her with necessary skills she may need in the future.

“I do it because I find as I grow older, I need experience for jobs,” Jeyakumar said. “It’s worth it in the end because you gain experience and meet new people.”

Although Jeyakumar is a committed volunteer, she said many students her age are just not interested in getting involved.

“Many of my friends find it kind of like a pain,” Jeyakumar said. “They have other things to do and they’re not interested in hanging out and spending a couple hours every week doing something they don’t have to do.”

Jeyakumar said it’s important for students to volunteer. She finds many students try to look for a placement so they can get their hours done and make the mistake of taking on a position they are not actually interested in doing.

“They should try a wide range of things so they don’t feel like they’re doing it because they’re forced to,” Jeyakumar said.

Taylor said for the students, the volunteering experience is what you take away from it.

“If they come in and they want an opportunity, we’re prepared to provide that to them, but they need to come in and demonstrate that they want to learn and want to gain these skills.”