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High School Volunteering Expands Students’ Education and Worldview

high school volunteering

In the first part of her essay excerpted here, Nilusha Jayasinghe, winner of Global Volunteers’ Bi-Annual Student Volunteer Abroad Scholarship, talks about the importance of high school volunteering and international service in shaping her career choices and worldview. 

My International Service Beginnings

In May of 2010, at the age of 19, I departed the United States to Ghana, a country that I had never been to before. For two weeks, alongside three other volunteers, I volunteered at the only eye clinic to serve all of Northern Ghana, a clinic that is solely dependent on the service of international volunteers. For those two weeks, I was immersed in and gained an appreciation for another culture, learned about international service and global health, made long-lasting connections that would accelerate my career later in life, and learned a wealth of information about myself.

Having learned the value of travel and international service during my time in Ghana, I later chased other opportunities through which I could make an impact while traveling. These efforts have taken me on short-term trips to volunteer in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, study in Argentina and South Korea, and recently to work for one year in Uganda. My passion for global health and international development was initiated by those two weeks in Ghana, which shaped my worldview and my life’s purpose to become a physician in global health. With my own personal experience, I am a wholehearted believer of the endless benefits of global exposure for young students, with the belief that the earlier the exposure, the better. This is why I believe high school volunteering is pivotal in students’ education.

For those two weeks, I was immersed in and gained an appreciation for another culture, learned about international service and global health, made long-lasting connections that would accelerate my career later in life, and learned a wealth of information about myself.

high school volunteering

Nilusha in suturing class in Nicaragua

High School Volunteering Creates Stronger Vision For Students’ Future

The events that occur in a person’s younger years often set the stage for growth, development, and passion for years to come. These formative years are critical to developing productive, passionate leaders of the world’s future generations, and therefore, stakeholders including educators and policy makers who have a large hand at the outcome of their development. During high school, students are generally at an ideal stage of life to explore careers and be receptive to expanding their minds to what opportunities exist globally to make an impact. The benefits of high school volunteering  are numerous, especially internationally, one of which is the opportunity for career exploration. Personally, if I knew that opportunities existed for high school volunteering abroad, I imagine that I would have had a stronger vision for my future.

I am a wholehearted believer of the endless benefits of global exposure for young students, with the belief that the earlier the exposure, the better.

high school volunteering

View of Tamale, Ghana

Experience Which Could Never Be Obtained In A Classroom

Students can also develop both hard and soft skills that can carry them a long way in their future. In addition to hard skills such as foreign language, there is large opportunity to learn such soft skills as empathy and cross-cultural communication, social justice, problem-solving, critical thinking, and networking, as well as appreciation for diversity. They can additionally craft their  résumés relatively early in their careers and have a competitive advantage when it comes to job seeking, college applications, and more, due to the way that their international impact helps them
stand out. They can additionally build lifelong relationships, friendships, and networks that can personally and professionally help them and enrich the rest of their lives. Simply put, the advantages and skills gained from an international service experience are those that can never be obtained inside the classroom.

There is large opportunity to learn such soft skills as empathy and cross-cultural communication, social justice, problem-solving, critical thinking, and networking, as well as appreciation for diversity.

high school volunteering

Nilusha volunteering at a free clinic in Costa Rica

Additionally, high school volunteering allows students to further comprehend the complexities of international development, and the fact that that they cannot single-handedly change the world. They could learn that development needs to be interdisciplinary, sustainable, and involve the local people such that they can sustain their own society. They can learn of phenomena such as the white savior complex and the intricate social justice issues related to international aid. With this awareness, they can carry on their work with intention, care, and effectiveness. Building this awareness about international service early is crucial, and will help build effective change makers and leaders for future international development efforts. Moreover, with these students’ early exposure to travel and international service, they can help pass down the knowledge and skills gained, become ambassadors for international service, and help mold future generations to come, thereby creating a ripple effect of sustainable development for future students.

To learn more about high school volunteering, check out these blog posts:

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