The Connection Between Courage and 50 Hours

Adaptability, teamwork, communication skills; these are all possible answers you may receive in response to the question, “What did you gain from your volunteer experience?” These answers are all valid—I’ve also gained these skills myself; however, my experience with the Youth Volunteer Corps gave me something that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

The high school that I attend is very academically rigorous. With a high academic ranking and an in demand International Baccalaureate program, it was natural for the students to be academically driven. It wasn’t necessarily a bad environment; it just wasn’t the one I was looking for. While my peers were great at motivating me to challenge myself academically, it was difficult to find people who shared my passion for creating change. Of course, getting good grades was still important to me; however, I wanted to dedicate some of my time to something else: I wanted to create change in my community. I saw issues that I wanted to take action on, but the issues seemed so big and I was only one person—how was I supposed to make an impact? I was completely lost on where to start.

It was when I signed up for the 50 Hour Pledge where things began to change. I began to volunteer more frequently in order to complete the pledge; and as I volunteered more, I became friends with other frequent volunteers. It was in these people that I found a community who inspired me to be something more, people who shared my passion for creating change in the world.

These youths not only inspired me through their passions, but also through their accomplishments. Some of the volunteers I’ve met have started organizations in support of issues they’re passionate about. The Free Your Mind organization, for example, was started to raise awareness about mental health issues and break the stigma surrounding mental health.

Seeing their accomplishments made the idea of creating change less daunting to me. These organizations weren’t started by people I heard about on the news or read about on social media, they were people I volunteered with, people I knew in person. Creating change was no longer something far-fetched that I only read about—it was right in front of me, brought to life by high school students just like me. Seeing the people around me create change inspired me to do the same. More importantly, it taught me that I can create change.

Suddenly, taking action no longer seemed so intimidating. I was surrounded by inspiring individuals who supported my goals, why should I be afraid?

Talking to these youths also made my goals more tangible. Often, the issues we’re passionate about are large and difficult to tackle—especially if you don’t know where to start. They’ve helped me break down the issue and make it less intimidating, as well as provide me with ideas as to where I could possibly start.

Of course, being surrounded by this supportive and inspiring community was the push I needed to take the first step. This year, I’m the president of my high school’s Earth Club, and I hope to raise awareness about issues threatening our environment, and also inspire my school community the same way Youth Volunteer Corps inspired me.

 

About the Author:
Hello! My name is Jasmine Zhao and I am currently in my last year of high school. When I’m not in class or studying, I can usually be found in my school’s band room practicing oboe, at the local library absorbed in a new book, or (of course) volunteering with YVC. No matter where the future takes me, I hope to never stop learning.