At the beginning of the term, the Summer Youth Enrichment Capstone students of 2017 volunteered 25-40 hours of their time to spend with Upward Bound students. Many, if not all the students who donated their time, connected with a great number of the youth that we worked with and were able to gain a beautiful new perspective on the challenges of being a student when the world is in such a difficult place.
The students in the Upward Bound program were specifically chosen to for this opportunity based on their desire to learn, experience with adversity, and most importantly, their drive to do something great with their lives. Upward Bound is a program that has provided fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance for nearly 53 years. The program provides opportunities for participants to succeed in their precollege performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits. Most of its students are from low-income families, or sometimes families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree. The goal of Upward Bound is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education. A huge part of making their entrance into the world after high school is building connections and earning volunteer hours to build up their resumes, experiences, and exposure to the world.
These middle and high school students inspired us to take our Participating in Community Project to the next level. With such a diverse community, our beautiful city of Portland had grown to be, we decided that we didn’t want to just update our list of volunteer opportunities for these students, we wanted to make it grow. Initially, this project was updating the Upward Bound catalog of volunteer opportunities for their students, but what if we could provide a more diverse list of opportunities for our diverse student population? This was our goal, redistributing the power to the community, giving everyone an equal opportunity to pursue a volunteer position they would not only enjoy, but something they could really dive into with a passion.
First, we decided to divide the group work evenly by delegating a third of the volunteer opportunity list to each of the group members. Luckily, this project was mostly virtual and done via google docs, but there was some calling around that had to be done. The volunteer list we had to start with was so outdated, a lot of the contacts we had, were out of commission for so long the current workers at the facilities hadn’t even heard of who we were talking about.
Another challenge we faced was the loss of a few opportunities. The list hadn’t updated their information in so long, certain programs had shut down, changed names, locations or just disappeared altogether. Once all the information was updated, our group decided the next goal was to create a cleaner, user-friendly format for students to navigate through. Unanimously it was decided to get rid of excess spacing between each volunteer list, pick a standard font and bring sizing down to normal 12-16 point font for a crisp, professional feel. Then we really got fancy and added hyperlinking. Through the google doc, the volunteer list is hyperlink accessible where it wasn’t before. Hyperlinking will help make the student’s navigation process for volunteer opportunities much easier.
Finding new opportunities proved to be a little more challenging than we first anticipated! Finding volunteer opportunities wasn’t the hard part, it was finding opportunities for high school aged students that got us, and not to mention the ability to drive and commute to and from sites for work. We wanted the list to be full of reasonable opportunities, options students could consider given the parameters in which they had to work with, such as having access to public transportation. In total, we added four new opportunities for students to volunteer for, it isn’t much but it’s four more than we had and with time the list will only grow.
Due to the amount of updating that needed to be done to the volunteer list, we recommend the list to be reviewed at least bi-annually and if at all, continue to seek out new, diverse opportunities for the volunteer list. If there is one thing we have learned from this term, is it only takes a few small steps to make big things happen, and we can all be an agent for change.
TEAM MEMBERS: Hanna Gisi, John Whiteside and Kayla Christian