Students Connect with Service Organizations through Virtual Fair

Online+volunteering+via+Innerview+is+used+to+provide+students+chances+for+civic+engagement+in+the+comfort+of+their+homes.+%28Photo+by%3A+Regina+Chiem+%28II%29%29

Online volunteering via Innerview is used to provide students chances for civic engagement in the comfort of their homes. (Photo by: Regina Chiem (II))

By Kevin Zhong (IV) and Ailin Sha (V)

On December 1, the Wolfpack Volunteers Club and Mr. Thomas Kennelly, the club’s advisor, hosted the annual school-wide community service fair, where students connected virtually with service organizations to learn about a variety of volunteer opportunities.

During the after-school meeting, students heard introductions from Mr. Kennelly and short pitches from each of the service groups. Shortly after, organizations were divided into separate breakout rooms. Students were able to move freely between these rooms to discuss with representatives and sign up for groups of their choosing.

16 organizations, both from within the school and the Greater Boston community, participated in this year’s fair. A wide variety of community service institutions were chosen, including student-run tutoring program A Helping Tutor, community development non-profit group Chinatown Main Street and BLS Wolfpack Volunteers.

With over 200 attendees, Cindy Tran (I) and Theresa Huang (II), presidents of Wolfpack Volunteers, agree that the online format of the fair was extremely successful. They explain, “Although we experienced some technical difficulties with moving students into breakout rooms, we were able to act quickly to make sure this was a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone.”

With the pandemic limiting volunteer opportunities, many students have been concerned about fulfilling the school’s 100-hour community service graduation requirement. The fair provided some much-needed guidance and relief to these students by introducing a myriad of opportunities available.

Griffin Barry (IV), an attendee, states, “The fair itself was helpful because it allowed me to find a way that I could get service that I didn’t find possible beforehand, as in the current day, getting hours is nearly impossible with the lack of gatherings and the need to socially distance.”

While planning the fair, Mr. Kennelly wanted students to realize that there are still plenty of ways to volunteer, since many community service events can still be conducted virtually or while social-distancing.

“Like everything else, the pandemic has changed the way that students can volunteer, but it hasn’t stopped students from volunteering. They just have to be a little more creative,” says Mr. Kennelly.

According to the organizers, the pandemic has posed unique challenges to senior citizens in nursing homes, many of whom have been self-isolating without family or friends to visit them. Volunteer groups, however, such as Wolfpack Volunteers, have organized services such as mailing homemade cards, video calling nursing homes and buying groceries for elderly neighbors to address seniors’ isolation. They hope the fair will remind students that it is now more important than ever to help members of the community who are in need.

“Many of our volunteer events are virtual as of right now, but we are always looking for opportunities to get our members out of the house and off their screens,” says Tran.

Mr. Kennelly offered advice to students who are still seeking community service opportunities. Students can reach out to him via email or access the contact information of all the organizations which attended the fair via the Daily Bulletin.

Mr. Kennelly adds, “A great way to volunteer is to join a club where community service is part of the mission […] groups like Ladies’ Collective, Junior Classical League, BLS Red Cross, [and] BLS Community Development Core […] because it’s less intimidating and more fun to volunteer with a group of friends than try to go by yourself.”