Visions of Youth (5/7/09)


May 7, 2009

By Kayla Purvis

To volunteer is to willingly devote your time and attention to someone or something other than yourself. This past Saturday, many people did just that all over the country for Green Up Day.

For this month’s column I would like to write about how students at Champlain Valley Union High School volunteer, and also share the best experience I’ve had with volunteering.

There are many ways to volunteer within the high school; many groups are intended to eliminate common flaws in communal places, such as racism, discrimination and intolerance. Joining one or more of these clubs or groups could be considered volunteering because you are spending time trying to better the student society.

Volunteer work doesn’t have to be huge in order to “count.” Something simple — like picking up a wrapper in the street — is a small act that will eventually add up to something.

So why do people volunteer? Some would argue that individuals volunteer to make themselves feel good. Others would say it’s done out of love for others. Or maybe an organization that someone belongs to (like the Girl Scouts or a church youth group) has volunteered as a whole.

Personally, I volunteer because it helps other people out. Sure, it looks good on college applications. But that’s not why I do it.

At Williston Central School, every eighth grader is asked to study something of their choice for the year. The final piece is called a “community connection.” The student finds a way to connect their topic to the community, and then they act on it. My topic was firefighting (for those who have known me for at least the last three years, that should come as no surprise).

For my community connection, I chose to raise money for a firehouse in Manhattan that I’m strongly tied to. The Pride of Midtown, on the corner of 8th and 48th, lost all 15 men on duty on Sept. 11. The family of one of those firefighters has become my second family, and they have changed my life. I managed to raise $407 between September 2006 and July 2007, and delivered the money in late July 2007.

My choice of volunteer action had personal ties. That does not mean, however, that all volunteer work needs to. Money doesn’t have to be involved either. Use your imagination. Do something that interests you. If you’re interested in what you’re doing, you are more likely to benefit whomever or whatever you are volunteering for.

When asked what she would do if she were to volunteer, 16-year-old Meghan Huisenga of Williston said she would “probably work in a soup kitchen because I feel like feeding the hungry is a really good thing to do.”

Asked why she had never volunteered before, Huisenga said, “I haven’t really found the means of doing so — I don’t know how I’d go about signing up to volunteer.”

I have a solution! For those of you in Meghan’s position, check out Type in your location and it brings up volunteer opportunities in your area.

Volunteering is fun. Choose something that interests you, and go with it. There are so many ways to benefit others.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a sophomore at Champlain Valley Union High School.

Editor’s note: United Way of Chittenden County also lists volunteer opportunities at