Volunteering is a way that many high school students are giving back to their community, gaining valuable experience from trained professionals and strengthening their applications for college.
Although community service is not required for graduation, 100 hours of pre-approved hours are necessary for students looking to pursue the top-level of Bright Futures. Even if students don’t plan on getting the Bright Futures Scholarship, community service is an important aspect of college applications.
“Colleges do look at your activities and if you are well-rounded,” NHS counselor Michele Fineis said. “There are even some scholarships that are available based on community service.”
Students can get their volunteer hours pre-approved by completing a form that can be found in the guidance office.
“There is a lime-green form available in guidance that students use to get their hours pre-approved,” Fineis said. “Once they complete the hours, they turn in a letter from the organization stating the number of hours completed. On the back of that letter, students should write a brief reflection of their volunteer experience and turn that in to their counselor. Once that is all received, the hours are entered into Focus.”
There are numerous options that Naples High offers in order for students to get involved in community service, such as Key Club and Interact Club.
“I would recommend joining Interact Club because there are great opportunities for those who want to get involved,” a freshman who preferred to stay anonymous said. “It is also very fun if you do it with friends.”
Community service clubs allow students to sign up for events where they can volunteer. These events can range from assisting with local art shows, to helping foster children wrap gifts during the holiday season and even to preparing food packages for the needy.
“I usually volunteer at Meals of Hope,” a freshman said. “We go to different schools and pack food for families that need it.”
Some volunteers need to submit an application and attend an orientation before they can volunteer.
“In addition to an application, an orientation is often held to familiarize volunteers with the goals of the organization,” Human Resources Specialist Rachel Blitz said. “It always helps to do a bit of research beforehand. If you can get ahead of the curve and have all of the registration steps completed, it may speed up the process and allow you to jump in sooner.”
Volunteering through Collier County Parks & Recreation is another way students can receive community service hours.
“High School students have endless opportunities to become involved in their community through Collier County Parks & Recreation,” Volunteer Coordinator Debra M. Siciliano said. “From assisting parks with administrative work, like reviewing our website to ensure proper functionality and social media posting, to helping with after school child care and homework help, there are opportunities for youth to volunteer at parks, beach clean-ups or work in gardens.”
Most students who volunteer for Collier County get their hours at special events. In addition, students can sign up to volunteer at Sun-N-Fun, Easter celebrations and festivals, community parks and many more.
“Special events are held throughout the year and are family events put on by Parks & Recreation throughout the county,” Siciliano said. “These volunteer opportunities provide youth with the ability to interact with people in the community through their roles with Parks & Recreation, from overseeing games or inflatables to taking surveys or answering general questions from the public about what is happening at the event.”
The process for signing up for the events is simple and allows students to create a schedule that works for them.
“Volunteers with Parks & Recreation must be at least 13 years old and are required to fill out a special events form and a parental permission form in advance of any special event they’d like to participate in,” Siciliano said. “If youth require more than 10 hours, say for Bright Futures, they can fill out the online application on our website which is completed annually.”
The special events held by Parks & Recreation are also posted on VolunteerMatch.org where students can respond to the event they are interested in. Then, they need to fill out an application on their website: https://www.colliercountyfl.gov/your-government/divisions-f-r/parks-and-recreation/volunteer-program.
“We’d like to partner with youth to provide opportunities to serve in ways that are rewarding for them, can help them with their educational or career path and can enhance the services we provide to our community,” Siciliano said. “If at any time you have questions or concerns you may contact us at volunteeratparks@CollierCountyfl.gov or by phone at 239-252-4033.”
Students and staff members have expressed the importance of volunteering, not only for college applications, but also to get involved in your school and community.
“Being involved in your community gives people a sense of belonging, and ownership in the community they live, work, study and play in,” Siciliano said.
“I believe that volunteering is important because it helps acquaint students with the community and with the act of giving back,” Blitz said. “Volunteering one’s time is a very meaningful way to spend your time because time is a very precious resource. Volunteering not only helps strengthen the missions of organizations, but also allows for meaningful impact in our community.”