Unexpected rewards for student volunteers

Ashfield Boys High students are developing important skills while helping in the community.

Image: Navigating the wonders of technology … Ashfield Boys High volunteers build seniors’ skills with iPads.

Teaching senior citizens how to use technology is just one of the many ways students at Ashfield Boys High School connect and give back to their local community.

For more than five years the school has offered a robust volunteering program, joining with community organisations to connect students to locals in need.

When the pandemic hit, the school’s volunteer work, like many initiatives, was put on hold.

However the school was recognised late last month as joint winner, with Marrickville High School, of the Volunteer Team category in the Inner West Council’s 2020 Amy Large Volunteer of the Year awards.

The award acknowledged both schools’ support of the CYBER Seniors program, an initiative of the Inner West Council, that partners student volunteers with older community members looking to improve their skills with technology.

The student volunteers travel to a local nursing home to help ‘senior students’ learn how to set up a new device, explore family history, share photos or keep in touch with family via social media – a skill seen as vital in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashfield High Year 11 student Dylan Chedra participated in the CYBER Seniors program last year and felt the experience was useful in giving him an opportunity to connect with the community.

“Young people don’t always have an opportunity to interact with the elderly and it’s given me the confidence in learning how to talk to others, especially people who are older than me,” Dylan said.

An inter-generational shopping program through Inner West Neighbour Aid is another way the students volunteer in the community with benefits for both the students and the elderly they help.

Collins Nguyen took part last year and said it wasn’t just about helping the elderly with the weekly groceries, but also being a friendly ear.

“It’s more about having a chat. You get to hear their personal life stories and what their time in high school was like,” Collins said.

Principal Dwayne Hopwood said he was proud of the school’s involvement and believed the benefits had a flow-on effect throughout the school.

“It’s a two-way street with obvious benefits for both the community and the boys,” Mr Hopwood said.

“It gives the boys confidence, improves their communication skills and is a leadership development opportunity.”

There were also practical benefits in providing students with a portfolio of opportunities to include on their resume when applying for work.

Other volunteering opportunities on offer include working with Inner West Council on a bush care regeneration program, annual charity fundraising opportunities and a peer-mentoring reading program with Year 10 and Year 7 students.

Students record their volunteering hours through the Premier’s Volunteer Recognition Program and receive awards at the end of the year based on the number of hours dedicated to volunteering. Last year 183 students recorded more than 5,500 volunteer hours combined.

Mr Hopwood said the students were eager to take up the volunteering roles again once COVID-19 restrictions were eased.

“The volunteer programs are part of a suite of strategies that help fulfil our school vision of producing kids who exit school as well-rounded, successful men,” Mr Hopwood said.

  • Student voices
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