It was the spring of 2004. The average price for a gallon of gas was $1.95 and Clay Aiken was atop the Billboard music charts. As a 9-year-old, I was volunteering for the first time, helping to collect donations for the Les Turner ALS Foundation on a Barrington tag day. Later that summer, I organized a garage sale as a complementary fundraiser.
Recruiting my friends to help proved difficult, as they were too busy playing sports. Sports were cool. Volunteering wasn’t. With time however, things change. Gas prices have evolved to the tune of over four dollars per gallon. Clay Aiken’s career has also evolved, or perhaps more accurately, devolved. And volunteerism has evolved, too. At Barrington High School, volunteerism has recently attained a certain “cool factor,” and it has made a world of difference.
The results speak for themselves. The last two Relay For Life of Barrington events, held annually at BHS, have raised more than $750,000 for the American Cancer Society. Fundraising and relief trips to Joplin, Mo., have been coordinated through the Go Beyond Barrington initiative. The Brother’s Keeper Club continues to make regular trips to the economically depressed Crow Creek Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Student participation with Barrington Giving Day has increased dramatically, making the event an overwhelming success and helping to make the holiday season more enjoyable for more than 300 area families. I could continue this list and end up with a novella. It’s remarkable.
In recent years, volunteerism at BHS has undergone a transformation of sorts. There seems to be a new attitude toward volunteer work among high school students. It’s “cool” to volunteer. Daily conversations with my friends revolve mainly around school, sports, our lives, and even politics from time to time. But the one topic that can link seemingly any two high school students together in conversation is volunteer work. Students actively seek out and pursue various volunteer opportunities. They are eager to recruit friends and discuss the latest volunteer efforts. From church groups, to school clubs, to charitable organizations, volunteer projects are prevalent. It has become harder to stay away from volunteering than to get involved with volunteering. It’s the effect of the “cool factor.”
I attribute the marked uptick in volunteerism to readily available opportunities. What makes BHS unique, however, is not just that volunteer opportunities are abundant. That can be said for many schools across the country, I have no doubt. What makes BHS unique is that our community provides us with such a diverse selection of volunteer projects.
Volunteerism at BHS transcends religious and cultural boundaries. It touches charitable organizations and reaches across community and even state boundaries. We are able to make an astounding difference in our own community. But most importantly, we are also able to make a difference outside of our own community. Volunteerism’s cool factor has been crafted over time thanks to the continually diversifying pool of volunteer opportunities. Volunteering at BHS has become far from mundane. It’s unique, creative, and exciting. Students are able to connect with and make a difference in other communities, not just their own. In the eyes of this student, there’s no better way to prepare for the next chapter in our lives.
Connor Maytnier (on left in above photo) is a senior at Barrington High School. He has won several awards for community service and is this year’s Youth Chairman for the Barrington Relay For Life.