By Cassie Casey
While some students are looking forward to cookies and gifts around the holidays, many others are also happy to help their community as the days get shorter and colder.
With the pressure of college mounting for juniors, seniors, and even sophomores, trying to stand out among other applicants can be stressful. There are sports, clubs, grades, standardized tests, teacher recommendations, college essays, and mentorships, but one activity colleges love to see is volunteering, and the more hours the better. Fortunately, this drives many students to go out and make a difference, and can foster an understanding of the importance of community service for life.
Sophomore Katie Morse said, “I really love doing community service, because you’re helping out great causes, and they’re usually really fun. I’ll probably include my community service experience on my college application, but I’m not really driven by college to participate. Community service is actually something I’m pretty passionate about — a fact that has led me to do it more.”
At the regional high school, there are many opportunities and programs to help students channel their passion to volunteer into different organized events.
The Interact Club of Martha’s Vineyard, a section of the Rotary Club, advised by history teacher Olsen Houghton, is run by juniors Rose Engler and Marissa D’Antonio, and was created to give students an opportunity to make a difference in their community through volunteering. They meet twice a month to brainstorm ways to help others and make international connections.
The student council, also advised by Mr. Houghton, was created so that students representing their grades can work with the administration to improve student life. The group is also involved with lots of community service projects and fundraisers, such as the annual Crop Walk and raking lawns for the elderly. These organizations are designed to help teach people to work in groups, help others, and fundraise money.
Mr. Houghton said, “Some students who volunteer are generally motivated with goals of continued education. Those are the people that are going off to college that need to pad up their transcripts; community service and leadership are huge when applying. But others come too just because they want to give back, and aren’t even sure about their education goals yet. It’s a powerful thing to see someone so grateful for what you’ve done for them. Helping others seems like the normal thing to do to me. When you sit back and see how your own struggles generally don’t compare to world issues, it’s powerful, and seeing people that are without can be very good. Throughout my 25 years here I haven’t seen more or fewer students volunteering, but I would love to see a mandatory number of community service hours instituted here in order to graduate.”
Senior Ashley Wood said, “Since I was 13, I’ve been volunteering at the bake sale for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and I have so much fun. I took away that lots of acts of kindness can go a long way. Baking a cookie and putting a smile on a face means a lot to me. My aunt definitely at first pushed me to do community service, but it’s good for me and for others, so really it’s a win-win. Now I motivate myself to do it as much as I can. I’m putting my community service projects like volunteering at The Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler, a twenty mile run around Martha’s Vineyard, and Cookies For Kids’ Cancer on my college applications, but I would love to pursue volunteering through college. I want to go to school for nursing. If I had the opportunity to volunteer and travel for nursing, I would love that.”