EMCS students make a difference by donating time.

Student leaders help Sally Ann

Youth for Change making a difference in the community

Many hands make for massive accomplishments.

For four hours on Saturday, December 7, 14 EMCS students participated in unloading and sorting a five tonne truck filled with food. In addition, they also sorted through some toys and filled up several racks of clothing.

In other words, in one short burst of organizing, these students contributed upwards of 56 hours of labour.

Pat Humble, the Community Ministries Director from the Stan Hagen Center for Families (which is the Salvation’s family centre on Quadra Street), said that the students’ contribution was invaluable. A truck ladened with five tonnes of food came in on Friday afternoon. The staff was overwhelmed. And on Saturday, the Youth for Change arrived, “cheerful and ready to work,” said Humble.

And not only did they get the job done, they organized the warehouse before they unloaded, then they unloaded the food, and then they did additional sorting. “They were fantastic,” said Humble, “and we’re extremely grateful.”

These energetic students are a part of the Edward Milne community school (EMCS) Youth for Change program. The current students were accompanied by former EMCS students who had participated in the program in previous years.

Scott Rothermel is the Community Liaison Officer from School District 62 who spearheads this initiative. The program invites EMCS students to participate in social activism through volunteering with events that can contribute to invoking change in community and environmental causes.

“Our focus is making a difference locally and as well as internationally,” said Rothermel, emphasizing that both ends of the spectrum need to be tackled when it comes to invoking change.

This program runs as separately from the Leadership program, but instead of limiting participation to self-identified leaders, the Youth for Change is open to anyone who wants to make a difference.

The development of leadership skills, if it happens, is happily inadvertent.

“It’s an opportunity for non-Leadership students to do social activism,” said Rothermel, adding that the program aims to balance education with action, learning with doing.

The Sooke News Mirror was invited to attend a Youth for Change luncheon at EMCS, and we had an opportunity to speak with some of the students in the program.

Olivia Weaks, who was at the Salvation Army food sort for the morning, was attracted to the program because of the social component. It feeds her inner extravert, recharging her energy through a need to mingle. That, and helping others makes her feel good.

Grace Carter got involved with Youth for Change because she likes volunteering and helping people. For Grace, the work on Saturday was fun and really got her into the Christmas spirit.

Infinity Logan, whose mother got her involved as a volunteer at the Mustard Seed Bank years ago, noted the development of her own leadership skills.

These three teens along with another friend, Naomi Yasuda, saw poverty as a steady social issue and noted that if more people were to contribute even just a little bit, it could make a big difference.

While the program is predominantly populated by females, there is a slight peppering of males. Last year, according to Rothermel, it was a 75/25 per cent split. This year, it’s less than that. Of the 20 participants, three of them are male.

When asked what accounts for the difference, Rothermel answered thoughtfully.

“It’s representative of maturity levels. I find that girls already start thinking beyond themselves at a younger age. I find that for boys, it may not be as cool to be sensitive and caring.”

When asked why they were in the program, the three young men currently in the program — Conrad and Peter Andersen, and Justin Armstrong — all agreed that the program was fun. Conrad was a bit more strategic (and elaborate) in his outlook, noting that he was ultimately pursuing a career in medicine. Given the increase in competition to get into these university programs, Conrad noted that social engagement would enhance his application.

A bit of giving, whatever the motivation, does truly go a long way.