Back To School 1 - Page 8 - High School Students Serve The Community Through Volunteer a

Back To School 1
- Page 8
High School Students Serve The Community Through Volunteer a
By Emily Parks,
Contributing Writer

The schedule of a high school student is a busy one. Between academics, music, sports,work, family and social activities, the calendar fills up quickly. Currently, high school students must perform student service learning,which is a graduation requirement that is often fulfilled through coursework completed as part of the curriculum.

The state of Maryland requires all high school students to complete 75 hours of service learning in order to graduate high school. A fact sheet provided by the Maryland State Department of Education noted that for the 2017- 2018 school year, statewide, students earned 6,312,918 service-learning hours through projects that helped the local and global community. However, many students choose to volunteer outside of their service hour requirements, donating their time, talents and efforts.

Service work can dovetail with a student’s current interests. Caroline Zappas of Towson is a member of the class of 2019 at Towson High School and volunteers with the local nonprofit Athletes Serving Athletes (ASA). ASA empowers individuals, known as ASA Athletes, who live with a developmental disability and have little to no mobility, but want to race in mainstream running events. Each ASA Athlete is pushed in an adaptive jogger by his or her own unique team of volunteer, able-bodied runners, called WingMen. A runner herself, Zappas is a WingMan and the president of a THS club called “Team ASA.” Team ASA is a group of high school students who train, raise money and participate as ASA WingMen.

Zappas’s interest was sparked after hearing about ASA from a classmate and seeing ASA WingMen and Athletes running together and having fun at a training run. “When you run by yourself, you can be so concerned with your pace and finish time,” she says. “Running with an ASA Team really puts your focus on the ASA Athlete while enjoying the camaraderie and fun of running together as a team.”

Sarah Slomkowski, director of operations for ASA, values the volunteer efforts of the high school-aged WingMen as well as their ability to connect with ASA Athletes. Often, the student WingMen are often closer to the Athlete’s age than the average WingMan. “The high school WingMen bring a youthful energy and enthusiasm to the program,” she explains. “They round out this community that we’re trying to create by connecting people of all abilities.”

Volunteer work can also be related to future career interests. Carter Vogel, a member of class of 2019 at Loyola Blakefield, a college preparatory school for young men in grades six through 12, performed for a week last June with the school’s musical performance group, putting on variety shows around the Baltimore area. Vogel plays the piano, drums, guitar, ukulele and is a vocal performer. This fall, he will attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

The volunteer performance group sang songs, told jokes and put on musical performances at area nursing homes, addiction centers and summer camps. Vogel enjoyed sharing his love for music while giving back to the community.Connecting with the audience and the people he met while performing made the experience even that much more worthwhile. “Seeing the audience enjoy the music and getting to know the people associated with the groups for whom we performed meant a lot,” he says. “Being able to volunteer while sharing my love of music made it so rewarding.”

Students also volunteer to fill a need. Caroline Yancisin and Emma Kirts, both rising seniors at Towson High School, launched the Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) this year after learning about a similar program at Dulaney High School. Yancisin explains the mission of SALT is to improve leadership skills among student athletes while helping to enhance energy and enthusiasm into Towson High School athletics.

“If you’re new to the team, or not the captain, you may not get as many leadership opportunities,” Yancisin explains. “SALT allows student athletes to lead service activities. It’s like a Student Government Association, or SGA, for student athletes.” Members help coordinate guest speakers, spirit events, volunteer opportunities, fundraisers and service learning opportunities.

SALT allows student athletes to volunteer but in a way that is in balance with the many demands on their time. Team members can volunteer occasionally for an hour to sell spirit wear or sign up for more activities.

Both girls are proud of the fact that they made SALT a reality. They felt nervous proposing this idea to their classmates and getting up in front of their peers to talk about SALT was nerve-wracking. But they developed leadership skills through their efforts.“When I was a freshman, I thought ‘I could never start a club,’ but now I am so proud of my initiative,” Yancisin says. “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Kirts agrees. If a student has an idea or wants to take initiative regarding volunteer work, she advises to go for it. “Don’t be afraid to get your ideas out there,” she says.“Stay with it even when it feels hard. I’m proud of how now I’m more comfortable with public speaking and organizing events.”

Students also volunteer to give back to the community. Sean Mathias, a rising senior at Towson High School, spent two weeks last summer as a camp counselor at Camp St. Vincent, which is run through the non-profit St. Vincent De Paul. The camp is designed to exclusively serve the summer learning and social-emotional needs of homeless children ages 5-14 in Baltimore City and County. As a counselor, he helped with school work while engaging the kids in fun activities such as going to the pool at Patterson Park or playing games.

Mathias enjoyed his time with the campers and chose to volunteer again this summer. When choosing to volunteer, he advises finding an activity that you enjoy or a cause important to you. “If you’re not excited about what you are doing, it shows,” Mathias says. “You will do a much better job if you are excited about the volunteer work.”

In the end, student volunteers get as much out of it that they put into it. “I had fun just playing with the kids in the camp and having a positive impact on their lives,” Mathias says. “I liked that they were excited to see me each day. And I was happy to see them.” •

Above right: Emma Kirts (left) and Caroline Yancisin (right), both rising seniors at Towson High School and leaders of the Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) talk to interested students about SALT at the school’s Athletic Department Open House held on May 7. Photo courtesy of Towson High School.