Tag Archives: volunteer

Volun-told? Volun-tell? I’d Rather Volunteer

By Jason Menard,

If you look at my social profiles or talk to me one-on-one, you might think that I’m not overly involved in my community. Some might suggest I’m not appropriately engaged.

I beg to differ. It’s just that I’d rather volun-teer than volun-tell. Continue reading

My Wardrobe Doesn’t Colour My Opinions

By Jason Menard

When it comes to clothing-related support of issues, it’s clear that words speak much louder than actions.

As my wife can attest, I have a hard enough time matching my wardrobe to itself, much less having to match it to my beliefs. So today, on the Day of Pink, I wore black and khaki (or green or beige* pants). But that doesn’t mean I don’t support the cause wholeheartedly. I just pulled a shirt out of my closet to match my pants – not my mood. Continue reading

The Future is Now

By Jason Menard

For all of you out there lamenting the state of today’s youth and worrying about the future of our society, it’s time to put up or shut up. The future can be bright – especially with organizations like Future Possibilities around to help foster and grow our community’s leaders.

Unfortunately, the organization is in dire straits – not for lack of promise by the youth, but by lack of interest and support from the very adults who, in general, condemn today’s youth for the casual attitude towards life and laziness.

Future Possibilities, whose Canadian roots start in Toronto, branched out last year with a satellite operation in London’s Glen Cairn Public School. The program is designed to pair a young child, between the ages of eight and 12, with a Kid Coach – an adult from the community who works weekly with the child to create, develop, and execute a Goal of Contribution to the community. All of this at no cost to the participants.

And, while the participants may be small, the scope of their goals betrays their diminutive stature. Last year, for example, Canadian participants ran fundraisers and drives which resulted in the donation of thousands of items and funds to women’s shelters, food banks, hospitals and humane societies. Students were able to raise money and donations for families in war-torn regions of our world. Students developed programs and supported the learning of the French language in our schools. They created and hosted bike-a-thons, dog-walk-a-thons, you-name-it-a-thons, all in the name of raising money for charities and foundations across this country.

Small dreamers with big dreams – and certainly their actions run counter to the stereotypical view of today’s youth.

And that’s where the stereotype falls down. These kids are all special, but their not unique. They’ve simply been given the opportunity, the support, and the encouragement from both their parents and their kid coaches to make a difference in the world around them. They’ve been shown that, no matter the size or the stature, each and every one of us in this world can make a significant difference for the better – and that’s a lesson that we, as adults, could stand to learn.

The London expansion went so well last year that the organization decided to expand again and allow more children the opportunity to participate in the program. Unfortunately, while the will was there to grow, the support has been lacking so far. But it’s not a lack of interested kids – it’s a lack of interested adults.

As adults in this world, we can’t simply sit back and shake our head at today’s youth. Being supercilious in our condemnation of today’s kids doesn’t help the situation – and, more importantly, it isn’t fair. Most kids today want to make a difference. Given the opportunity, they want to help, to be active, and to make their community a better place to live. But there’s only so much they can do on their own. They need support from adults like us.

We, as parents, community leaders, and concerned citizens, have an obligation to future generations to guide them and show them the right path. When you combine our knowledge with our kids’ enthusiasm, great things can result. And that’s been proven over and over by the goals and actions of Future Possibilities’ kids.

And the best part of this program is that it’s not a one-shot thing. Once these kids have experienced the realization of their potential, and once they get a sense of what they can do on their own, then they’re motivated to continue to make a difference in our community. They’re motivated to be better citizens, be more active, and be better role models for their peers.

There are kids who have the will, but lack the way because we’re too busy looking down at today’s youth instead of getting off our high horses and putting in some real leg work. If programs like Future Possibilities fail through lack of support, then we have only ourselves to blame.

If you’re interested in supporting Future Possibilities, either through contributions of time, resources, or support – or if you’re interested in lending your expertise and guidance as a Kid Coach – please contact Michele Sands, the London Chapter’s director, atmichele@fpcanada.org.

The possibilities for the future can be bright, but our kids need our help to shine a light on their potential.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Volun-told Policy Short-Sighted

By Jason Menard

Does anyone else find it somewhat curious that the very institutions that have been charged with educating our youth are the same ones that seem to need a refresher course on what the term volunteer actually means?

Forcing our high school students to perform a requisite number of volunteer hours as a compulsory component of graduation is just wrong and sends a terrible message to our society’s youth.

By very nature, compelling students to partake of this program in order to graduate goes against the very concept of volunteerism, and it stands as an insult to the intellect of our society’s youth to use euphemisms like volunteer, when compulsory societal assistance is the true name of the game.

And, in the long run, what we’re going to do is drive many of these students away from ever volunteering again.

The things I have become passionate about in my adult life are things that I drifted into on my own volition. In large part, the things I was forced to do were the things towards which I developed the most resistance – and I don’t think I was an atypical teenager.

Admittedly, when I was in high school, I was not the most socially conscious member of my graduating class. However, as the years go by and I learn more about the world around me, I’ve come to include volunteering in my life. I consider myself and enthusiastic and hard-working volunteer when I choose to commit my time to a cause.

But it’s always my choice – no adult would expect any less, but then we don’t extend the same courtesy to our children.

My participation has brought me in contact with our conscripted volunteer staff of high school students. Needless to say, my experiences have been mixed. I’ve run into kids who are more interested in socializing with each other and show no desire in actually being where they are. For them it’s a matter of doing their time – much like a prison sentence – until they’re allowed to go.

Then there’s the other group who actually takes an interest in what they’re doing and display a passion and work ethic, which shows that they are participating for the right reason. The kicker is that these are the kids who would be volunteering anyway. I’m not so naïve to think that volunteers aren’t needed in our society, but what we need are more of the latter and less of the former.

The school board desperately needs to get more creative in their attempts to encourage volunteerism. Let’s encourage behaviours and work ethics that will actually serve them later in life. Instead of making volunteer participation compulsory, let’s investigate ways to offer it as an extra-credit opportunity. Working with teachers, allow kids time away from class on occasion to help worthy causes and learn more about the world around them.

For the people who will complain that offering extra credit is unfair, look at the work force. If you want to impress your boss, you go above and beyond the call of duty. You put in the extra time – so why not promote and reward this work ethic at a young age?

Kids are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Between the demands of school, social pressures, and – for many – part-time jobs, we need to be understanding of their needs as well and not paint them all with the same brush.

There are a number of kids out there who would love to donate their time and energy to volunteer programs. But there are ways to channel their energies to these worthwhile cause other than through administrative force.

Think back to the things you remember from your own youth. Chances are your best memories are of your friends, sporting accomplishments, or experiences gained through participation in clubs. But the key in all of this is that these are all activities you chose to do.

Our high school-aged children are on the cusp of being adults. Part of their development during this time is to learn how to make their own choices and to do the right thing. So let’s trust our children and treat them as the adults we want them to be.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved