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Volunteering Exposed

Today (Sunday, Oct. 30) I was volunteering at a voter registration booth when I noticed a new booth next to mine. A group of five students, chaperoned by two parents, were sitting behind a table full of information about blood donation. One of the parents – the father – had a stack of fliers in his hand and was energetically handing them out to anyone who passed by. However, his son – a junior in high school — stood timidly in the background and gave fliers to only a few of the passersby. When I asked the father if his son actually liked volunteering here – in fact, I asked him three times – he avoided the question, stating, “My son has worked for this organization for a long time. He has already volunteered for 150 hours. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up.” However, when I asked the son’s mother what she believed her son wanted to be in the future, she said she didn’t know. When I remarked that volunteering wasn’t a deciding factor for colleges, the father retorted, “It’s not the volunteering, it’s the leadership.”

Emily Zheng

As I watched the father do the work for his son – even though he shook off that remark, stating, “This is for my son. It isn’t my job to volunteer. It is for my son and his future” – I wondered whether parents really know the wishes of their children for the future, or whether parents are using their children as a tool to fulfill their own wishes. From what I’ve seen, the father seems to be the one applying for college, not his son.

<Editor’s Note: blogger Emily Zheng is a freshman at Arcadia High School.>,

Another time, I was in the car when I happened to see my friends standing in front of a retirement home. When I asked them about it the next day, they reluctantly admitted, “Yes, we volunteer there,” as if they were revealing a big secret. Very few people knew about them volunteering there. It crossed my mind that if you really want to help those people in the retirement home, why keep it a secret? Doesn’t the old saying go, “The more, the merrier?” It gives the impression that students “volunteer” purely for their own benefit.

About a month ago in my English class, my teacher asked how many people currently volunteer. About 95% of the class raised their hands. When she asked how many people would volunteer if the National Honor Society, or the like, did not exist, only two people at most – including me – raised their hands. One student even remarked, “There’s no point in volunteering without that!”

Volunteering is talked about all over campus. Key Club and Leo Club, to name a few, are volunteering service clubs on campus, and Key Club alone has over 120 members. People are documenting how many hours they get, where they volunteer, how much money their fundraisers made, how many flyers get passed out, etc. Many people – like my friends that volunteered at the retirement home – want to keep their volunteering a secret, to make themselves look special and “stand out” when they apply for college. Competition is really high, but that is not the spirit of volunteering. Volunteering is giving up your time for others who need it, but doing so purely for your own benefit makes it less meaningful, especially if the volunteer doesn’t even care about the cause. What is the point of volunteering for AIDS walk when you don’t care about the disease?

Whenever I bring up volunteering opportunities to members of a group, they always ask me the same question: “Does this count for volunteering hours?” Hours are good, but they shouldn’t be your only motivation. When I volunteer, I usually do not ask for hours. Make sure you are volunteering for something you are truly passionate about. It is just like having a job – you will have a good time if you really enjoy it. Too much volunteering at too many places causes stress and deprives students of sleep when they most need it. Homework is left undone. Studying is the most important part of your education. Volunteering is just a minor factor. The worst mistake someone could make is to switch the two priorities around. There is something for everyone in the volunteering world, though, even locally! This link will take you to all the numerous volunteering opportunities that are available around this area. This brochure, made by Arcadia City Council recently, will help you find places to volunteer that you are interested in. If you really like volunteering there, stick with it to the end… Even past high school! Don’t volunteer only for what it looks like on paper. Enjoy your time volunteering and really support your cause. Find a place you really like and you’ll really enjoy your time there. Don’t forget to lend a hand to your fellow peers too! — By Emily Zheng

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