Junior Caroline Paige has taken time out of her life to volunteer in her community and help others. During her freshman year, she began to commute downtown with her church to tutor kids with fewer opportunities than an average student in the Carmel Clay Schools District or other suburban areas.
“I helped them with basic math homework that they didn’t get from school. A lot of them didn’t have family or parents to help them,” Paige said. “They were underprivileged and slower at learning and catching on to things.”
Paige is not alone in her volunteering. According to recent statistics by the U.S. Department of Labor, 2010 experienced a growth of 1.6 million volunteers, the highest increase since 2003.
CHS is a prime example of this national trend. According to Key Club co-sponsor Katie Gray, Key Club has seen a steady increase of members over the last two years, from 200 to 300 members in 2007 to over 450 today.
“Students in Carmel particularly realize how fortunate we are and that it is our responsibility to give back to others,” Gray said. “Service is free. Students don’t have to pay to participate, just their $20 dues to participate.”
The recent recession and economic trouble has not hindered the rise of volunteers. In fact, it has only benefited the community by increasing the amount of service being provided. More than 8.1 billion hours of community service was provided in the United States last year, according to the Corporation of National and Community Service.
Gray said, “In general, during the economic downturn, people who are fortunate or have enough and are hurting for money or food feel the obligation to give back a little more than before because the realization is there that not everyone has enough right now.”
Another reason for this spike in volunteers is that students are more aware of academic success and achievement according to Paige.
Paige said, “Doing community service or helping (the) underprivileged definitely gives students a better chance of getting into college.”
The switch to the distinguished graduate program from the former procedure of recognizing the valedictorian has also been an impact because Key Club is one of the few organizations for which students can accumulate points for that program.
“Students are thinking more long-term and how they want to portray themselves when they apply to colleges,” Gray said. “Doing service work is one of those positive things that makes students look well-rounded.”
Also at this school there are many new volunteer opportunities for students to take advantage of. The family and consumer science department, for example, incorporated volunteering into the curriculum of some classes.
Brittany Wiseman, family and consumer sciences department chairperson, said, “You have to have eight to 10 (volunteer) hours each semester for interpersonal relations as part of the stewardship unit. And in freshman year, AVID requires 25 hours.”
For her part, Paige sad she took life skills, a class for students at this school with learning disabilities. She acted as a peer tutor and gave assistance to the students of the class.
According to Gray, this increase in volunteering is happening even as charities report significant decreases in donations.
She said, “I work with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a volunteer and they’ve noticed a sharp drop-off in donations. But, I do think, even with the sharp drop-off of donations, charitable organizations are still benefitting from the increased numbers of people who want to volunteer.”
Paige said, “Students should be realizing that they should get involved and volunteer more. The large amount of clubs and opportunities that CHS provides are influencing students and helping increase the amount of volunteers.”