Serving in Community
by Madeline Koo, student leader
Volunteering with Student Open Circles (SOC) has taught me so much more than just giving back to the community. It has taught me how to reflect on my thoughts and actions. It has opened my eyes to the rest of the city living just outside campus walkways. It has helped me hone my leadership skills, listening skills, teamwork and cooperation skills, all necessary for the post-graduate workforce. I have volunteered with SOC since I was in my first year, completely unsure of anything going on academically, but certain that I wanted to continue my regular habit of volunteering.
Flash forward to April 2020: schools are closed, everything has been moved online and an in-person fall term was uncertain. No one knew how this semester would turn out and everyone was trying to adapt to the best of their abilities. However, one thing was certain: volunteering was still on! Near the end of summer, Jeff, Marybeth, Ginni, as well as all the student facilitators, worked together to create online adaptations of reflection activities for our volunteer groups and to figure out how we would provide virtual volunteer sessions with our individual volunteer programs.
In fall 2020, I led an online volunteer group with the Learning Disabilities Association of Halton-Hamilton (LDAHH)'s Reading Rocks program. We provided one-on-one literacy support for children with learning disabilities. We were able to provide thorough sessions for our children and build strong mentor/mentee bonds.
Although COVID-19 affected such an enormous part of our daily lives, I am so grateful that SOC was still able to provide this amazing opportunity that I look forward to every semester. Talking to my fellow volunteers, we all agreed that volunteering was so crucial especially during these unprecedented times as it gave our lives more meaning, joy, and a sense of community as well, things that seemed to be missing when the world came to a halt. I will forever be grateful that I decided to take that first step into the volunteer fair in first year and never looked back!