2019 and 2020 can be best summarized by COVID-19 Pandemic. When the novel virus first hit, mass panic ensued. Mundane items such as hand sanitizer, masks, and toilet paper became valuable treasures. It seemed that COVID-19 changed everything for everyone, and seemed like life would never be the same again. Schools and the lives of students were no exception. Last year when the pandemic began, as a panic response, schools shut down immediately, and online school began. When school restarted this year, we used hybrid learning, with 50% in-person learning and 50% virtual learning. Some went with the full virtual learning model. As a high schooler, besides academic pursuit, extracurricular activities, especially volunteering, become very important as part of getting ready for college. Normally, traditional volunteering opportunities for a high school student take place in public settings like hospitals, nursing homes, libraries, and community centers. These places have changed in how they function, just like schools, resulting in either severe curtailment or total elimination of volunteering opportunities for students like myself. As social distancing became the new normal, social interaction of any sort requiring close physical proximity has become a taboo. Even visiting your grandparents are frowned upon at times.
Just as I had to adjust to the new normal for my school life, I had to adjust to new ways of volunteering. At first, I was in panic, and had no idea what to do. Then thinking outside of the box and using little creativity, I came up with an idea. Volunteering has always been an essential part for students to connect with their community and make the world a better place. Since everyone is somewhat trapped in their homes and neighborhoods, I decided to look for opportunities to make a difference around my immediate surroundings.
|[Photo of me taking back trash to my neighbor’s garage. Photo courtesy of Joshua Yoon]|
First, I looked for the volunteering needed in my own development, the Georgetowne Court. The need was that our neighborhood has a large elderly population, and some of the elders have a hard time managing their trash and moving these rather large trash bins. Then with the helpful discussion with the president of our Home Owners Association, I identified the neighbors who could use my help and asked them to sign up for my help. Soon after, I started hauling up people’s trash bins up and down the driveways and service roads. I made my volunteer service in my community sound more official by giving it a name. I called it the ‘Georgetowne Trash Helpers’ and elicited other volunteers. Although it started out as mainly hauling up trash, it has expanded to other volunteer work like helping with moving furniture and other heavy objects.
|[Photo of me collecting cans for donation. Photo courtesy of Joshua Yoon]|
Some neighbors asked if I was available to help with their IT needs, so I made myself available for that as well. I am receiving donations in money and food, which I intend to donate to local charity institutions, including local food banks. The service became official when we were told that the community loved the idea. With the creation of my volunteer service, I take up trash on Tuesdays and bring back the empty bins on Wednesday.
|[Photo of me donating online. Photo courtesy of Joshua Yoon]|
Eventually, I am thinking about getting my school friends to get involved and expand to other communities. As a member of the National Honor Society and the Key Club at my high school, I am encouraged to do volunteer work. Just as it was a challenge for me to find a volunteer opportunity, I know for certain, that my friends in these organizations are facing difficulties in finding volunteer opportunities. I plan to share my experience with my friends in the National Honor Society and the Key Club and encourage them to do similar projects in their own community. Even though COVID-19 has limited us from going outside, it does not mean we have to stop volunteering. In fact, this pandemic gives everyone time to reflect, and to create new ways to help others, and spread hope for others during these struggling times.
Pine-Richland High School
Joshua Yoon firstname.lastname@example.org
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