Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Prairie High School are both homes of endless volunteer opportunities. Volunteering can lead to jobs that would have never been considered otherwise and introduce new people. It can improve mental health, give a new perspective on life, and inspire others to follow.

The most popular forms of volunteering are fundraising and doing activities that raise money for a cause. This can include sponsored walks, donation pages and more. However, Cedar Rapids offers a wide variety of volunteer options. Home repair for seniors, animal shelters, visiting nursing homes or hospitals, and helping out at daycares are only a few of the choices presented to the people of Cedar Rapids.

Fortunately, volunteering in the community is becoming a huge trend. According to the Home Office Citizenship Survey 2003, “18.8 million people were engaged in community participation in 2001, compared to 20.3 million in 2003.” A rise of more than one and a half million. Currently, young people, ages 16-24, are involved in informal volunteering more than any other age group.

Make A Difference Day Survey claims that, “nearly half of all volunteers say volunteering has improved their physical health and fitness. 71% of volunteers say volunteering helps combat depression and limit stress.” It adds skills to the workforce and can even increase people’s salary in the long run.

Prairie High School is always offering new ways to volunteer. If students complete enough hours, they will receive a volunteer chord at graduation. High School students can travel to the elementary schools during free periods and help in the classrooms. Also, there are clubs and organizations such as National Honor Society and Key Club International that focus on getting students involved and helping the community.

Key Club has been apart of Prairie High School for 7 years. In a recent interview with Key Club leader, Kathy Waychoff, she states that “Key Club focuses around helping children and families.” They do events such as helping with PTO kids, preparing meals for hospitals, making jewelry for cancer patients and numerous amounts more. They help at around 70 events a year and fundraise for different causes.

Waychoff states, “Key Club is for every single student, you don’t need straight A’s or to be able to throw a ball.” To be a Key Club member, you must fill out a form, pay a small fee, attend 4 meetings and collect 25 hours of volunteering. If you are a busy student Waychoff asks, “just try it out and see if it’s for you.” Key Club is a program that includes everyone and has simple requirements. Waychoff says, “all you really need is a place in your heart that wants to help.”

National Honor Society is another way for Prairie juniors and seniors with a 3.5 GPA or higher to volunteer. It began in 1961 and started with only 31 members, and has grown tremendously over the years. National Honor Society members do multiple events such as cleaning up Cedar Rapids, supporting Prairie’s blood drive, tutoring and help to raise money for causes in the area.

In an interview with Prairie National Honor Society leader, Matthew Alexander, he states that “through NHS you can help anyone you choose. One of our main goals is for our members to give back to the community in the best way we can.” Alexander believes that “NHS members are spokespeople for good character. They always strive to serve as role models.”

To be a member of National Honor Society, Alexander says, “community service is important for applicants to show. Typically, the more service the better. The council really likes seeing applicants who have volunteered in a variety of ways for a lot of different things.” National Honor Society supports scholarship, leadership, service, and character.

It is very simple to start getting involved and helping those in the community. To volunteer, find an organization and contact the leader, then follow the directions they give. There is always something for everyone.

Volunteering offers a way to serve others while gaining personal growth. Prairie High School and Cedar Rapids encourages people to help those around them and make a difference in the community. Kathy Waychoff believes that “life is all about taking care of each other.” What are you doing for others?


One comment

  1. Taylor,
    Volunteering is such an important aspect of community engagement and you have done an excellent job capturing the benefits of volunteering for those gaining experience through their time given to a cause, and those on the beneficiary side of the volunteering initiative. You have strong organization of ideas and an effective balance between research and contribution from your interview subjects. Thank you for sharing on this important topic.

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