Volunteerism and Mentoring – Lauren McKinley Renzetti

Lauren demonstrating silkscreen printing at the AGO

In today’s tough job markets there is a need for higher education. Finding a suitable career path is often a daunting task and uncertain pursuit for many high school students. The 40 hour community service requirement in the high school system is a great step towards finding a direction and making that choice.

Last summer I had a volunteer who was switching majors from business to teaching. She had no experience with children at all in life and in her family. She was positive this was the role for her. After the second day she did not return. She realized that working with children was not a good fit for her at all. This potentially saved her thousands of hours and dollars investing in an education that would not have been an ideal choice.

As the volunteer coordinator for Art Works Art School, I have seen hundreds of volunteers come through our doors. Many teens choose us because they think “How hard could  it be volunteering to make art?” Volunteering in and of itself is not hard. The challenge lies in how much you embrace the opportunity. In any volunteer position it is easy to do simply what is asked of you, but the assertive volunteer shows initiative by asking questions,  and looking for solutions. This exhibits true leadership skills.

Many volunteer positions are created to help the community but a truly useful volunteer is one that becomes part of the team and asks to go beyond the minimum requirements. We have a mentoring program at Art Works for volunteers who are eager to try their hand at teaching. The instructor in effect switches roles with that volunteer and becomes their assistant. This gives the volunteer a wonderful opportunity, to see if they even want to be a teacher and have what it takes to be a good teacher.

Our volunteers work with different age groups in an endeavor to learn what it is that is drawing them to this challenging and rewarding  profession. This is where a leap of maturity and growth often takes place and is observed by our teachers.

The first step in volunteering is figuring out what interests you and seeing what is out there. Google has many sites on volunteering and places like Craig’s List or Kijiji has a whole section on volunteering, as do most newspapers.

When looking for a place to volunteer, make sure they give you clear guidelines as to what you will be doing and for how long. Make sure they give you opportunities to try things on your own and they should encourage you to  ask questions. At the interview stage find out if you will be getting a review of your job performance as this will help improve your skills for future employment. If you feel confident you did a good job, approach them for a reference or they may even offer it.

Lauren Renzetti, is the Assistant Director and Volunteer Coordinator at Art Works Art School . Art Works has over 60 camps this summer with a wide variety of themes and age groups. If you need community service hours or hours to get into teachers college, volunteering is a great way to explore what you could be great at. www.artworksartschool.com