When the Wildcat Community Service Program (WCSP) began in February of 2011 the hope was that it would help to, as Director Diane Garrity explained, “Provide a link that allows students to see all of the volunteer opportunities available to them in one place.”
With each Wilmington High School student required to complete 50 hours of community service in order to graduate it was clear that students as well as parents needed a source they could trust to provide them with information about various types of volunteer opportunities within the community.
Yes, volunteering sounds easy enough but when students are juggling studies, sports and other interests, finding a volunteer position that they are suited for can be an ominous task.
Reality is, finding the right volunteer opportunity can make a world of difference and that’s where, in 16 months, WCSP has made such a difference.
With Garrity at the helm, WSCP is able to coordinate thirty one local non-profits with student volunteers and set up relationships that, often, go well beyond 50 hours of community service.
A 20-year resident in town, Garrity is also the mom of a high school student as well as a substitute teacher. She understands first hand the challenges that students and parents face and has relationships throughout the community.
Sixteen months after WSCP became official, the results speak for themselves. The program is currently working hand in hand with thirty one organizations throughout the community, has placed two hundred fifteen volunteers at one hundred thirty events and has received well over four hundred and fifty requests and over two thousand hits on their website.
Garrity hopes to expand to at least forty organizations in the near future and be able to offer every student a volunteer opportunity that they will love.
With summer here and students enjoying a break from the school year routine now is the perfect time for them to get out into the community and make a difference.
The most immediate opportunities center around the town’s 4th of July celebration and Garrity has been working closely with Peggy Powers of the 4th of July Committee to coordinate volunteers and positions throughout the festivities.
In addition the Farmer’s Market, WCTV, The Bookstore Next Door and Harnden Tavern have joined the program and have plenty of opportunities throughout the summer.
Perhaps the most surprising part of WSCP’s success is how big the impact has been throughout the community. WSCP has assisted with a number of school and recreation events and even proved to be the catalyst that inspired the Wilmington Arts Council to add a High School Art Show.
Organizations throughout town have learned what a huge asset student volunteers can be and many have gained a new respect for the next generation of volunteers. Most importantly, however, students have learned just how fulfilling volunteering can be.