South students find fulfillment in volunteering

Julia Marriott, asst. features editor

Many students are often seen working part-time jobs outside of school for a consistent paycheck; however, some unrecognized students devote the same amount of time working without any paycheck in return. Providing new outlooks on life, volunteering allows many students at South the ability to experience their dreams and interests. 

One such student, junior Mari Keating, volunteers for several programs including Northshore University HealthSystem at the Glenbrook Hospital and NSSRA (North Suburban Special Recreation Association) which offers year-round programs for people with disabilities throughout the year. Keating explained that volunteering in the Hospital gives her the opportunity to experience working in the medical field.

“I work at the front desk,” Keating explained. “Because I am a volunteer, I am not cleared to be inpatient contact [direct work with patients], so a lot of times I will wheel people to their rooms, I will walk people to the emergency room and give directions to patient rooms. I have learned [more] about the hospital environment, how it works and schedules.” 

Keating’s work at NSSRA has also provided many rewarding experiences and memories for herself, particularly when she worked for NSSRA’s SPICE (Special People’s Ice Skating Experience) program where she ice skated with a buddy every Saturday. Keating explained that through this program, she was able to see him improve his skating skills and self-sufficiency. 

“[By the end of the program, my buddy] could skate circles around anyone I knew,” Keating said. “He was so confident and went from needing full assistance to skating all by himself. That just shows [that with] a little bit of me helping him, he can go so far. I was just so happy to be a part of that experience for him. [It] just showed me, personally, that anyone is capable of doing anything, even if the world is not made for you.”

Reflecting on her time as a volunteer, Keating concluded that volunteering not only helps the community but also helps students find their interests and prepare for the future.   

“I think that volunteering in the area you are interested in can benefit you, because you will be working in an environment where you are like, “Oh I know this, this is something I want to do for college,” instead of just jumping into an area where you don’t have that much experience,” Keating said. “I think that in high school, [volunteering] is really valuable because you will start to get that feeling of where you want to be when you grow older.”

Similarly, senior Caroline Sultz has pursued her love for animals by volunteering at the Heartland Animal Shelter. Sultz explained how she got involved with Heartland at the age of 16 by assisting cat rooms and walking dogs. Since then she has taken her volunteering to the next level by creating the Heartland Team Board, a group of volunteers focusing on the management of the shelter and by participating in outreach events where Heartland workers promote the shelter in various community areas such as the local grocery store.

“We reached out to a lot of different teams who volunteer at Heartland already, [including volunteers for] cats and dogs, so we have a variety of students at different schools,” Sultz said. “Our goal [for the Heartland Team Board] is to educate our community on the importance of adoption. The club is only a few months old, but we are already starting to plan a smaller fundraiser and we want to do a larger fundraiser event.”

Sultz explained how she participates in the fundraisers and outreach events by focusing on spreading awareness about the importance of adoption to the Glenview community to accomplish the goals for the shelter. 

“We don’t just want to raise the money, we actually want to make an impact on the shelter,” Sultz said. “They have an outdoor area for the dogs, and we are creating another ball run, [which is] a fenced-in area for the dogs to run outside. It is really useful in the summer and good for socialization for the dogs. Our goal is to raise money, and then go out and purchase [the supplies] for the dogs. [Also,] we need to re-paint some of the shelves and areas that the cats live on.”

Senior Michael Davis has also made changes in small communities by working on small projects through the student-travel volunteer program, Rustic Pathways. Davis explained how Rustic Pathways allows students to choose where they want to travel and how many service hours they would like to work over the summer. According to Davis, he typically chooses 40-50 hours of volunteering throughout a two-week duration in countries like Cambodia, Peru, Vietnam and Cuba. 

“I just thought it was kind of cool how [students] were able to incorporate going to new places, being able to see these countries as well as being able to give back to these people that help you,” Davis described. “I thought it was really important that they were able to make traveling a different experience kind of more important, feel more meaningful.”

In addition to his meaningful trips, Davis explained how he experienced a new culture volunteering in Cambodia different from his life in Glenview. According to Davis, the houses in the community are made of bamboo, wire and wood and his group’s job was to help build a house on the river and help run a school in the community.

“We stayed in this floating village; basically, the way it worked was all the houses were on a river so all the houses flooded when we were there for like a week. I thought it was really cool because it was totally different from the life that I have in Glenview and it was really cool to see. They don’t have cars or anything, they travel by canoes you just kind of see their different type of lifestyle while being able to help them out.”

One of the things that stuck out to Davis was the compassion of the citizens in the communities where he volunteered. While he didn’t know anyone before the trips, he was able to make strong connections with the other volunteers Davis explained. 

“I think just the friendliness of other people, especially, last summer. We were in Vietnam and all the people I went with on these trips, I didn’t know any of them before so it is just kind of interesting to see how close I can become with all these people when we get in these villages and these homes. [Also] the friendliness of local people because when we were in Vietnam, the people helped us with their project and I hadn’t really expected that. They were there the whole time putting equal effort as us and sometimes even more.”