Volunteering during a pandemic
by MOLLY MIDKIFF, Staff Writer
Volunteering is essential for graduating high school and applying for college, but with a global pandemic underway, it has become harder for students to get those hours. In response, organizations have taken precautionary measures, such as going completely virtual, to continue helping the community especially during these times.
Helping the community is always a good thing, especially during a world health crisis, but it is also a must for any highschool student looking to graduate and go to college. So, what is one to do when it is nearly impossible to gather into big groups to help the community? Below are a few organizations that offer socially distanced, from ZOOM to in-person, volunteer opportunities:
Start the Adventure in Reading (STAIR), which is currently accepting applications, is an online tutoring program for first and second grade students in the city who struggle with reading skills. They currently offer tutoring over ZOOM or Google Meet to families who have access to it. Families who do not have online access can receive help over the phone.
As a volunteer, you can choose which days of the week you tutor, Monday-Thursday, and how many days you volunteer, one or two. Each session is around 30-40 minutes.
Gili Weintraub, a Sophomore who has been working with STAIR since last year says, “What I love most about STAIR is watching the kids grow and improve and get excited about their new reading skills, and when they show those skills to their parents for the first time”.
After completing the application and attending an online orientation, you are paired with a student. If you like working with kids, this is definitely a great option to get some virtual volunteer hours. Visit their site to fill out an application: https://www.stairbirmingham.org/tutor
If you prefer to not work with kids, a great, easy-going option for online volunteering is the O’Neal Library's Teen Board, also known as TAB. Meetings happen once a month on the first Monday. The meetings are currently on ZOOM.
The meetings only last around an hour, and during them you help the library plan upcoming events, ranging from writing workshops to cooking challenges, all currently virtual. TAB is also a great place to learn about more volunteering opportunities at the library, such as Friends of the O’Neal Library, though they are very limited at the moment. Visit their site to fill out an application: https://www.eolib.org/teens-tab
McWane Science Center is still offering in-person volunteering opportunities at this time. If you are good with kids, this is another program for you. Teen volunteers at the McWane Center help with guests, kids, and give scientific demonstrations.
As a volunteer, you are required to wear a mask, and clean all the equipment everytime it is used to help prevent spread. Capacity at the center has also been limited to help promote social distancing among guests.
Sophomore Lilly Odom, who has been volunteering at McWane for around three years now, says what she likes about the program: “I like the experience I get working with other people and in customer service, and I like getting to meet lots of new people through it.”
The admission process is rolling, so you can apply anytime. The program running right now is the School Year Teen Program, which runs from September to March of 2021.If you want to do more after school is out, there is also a summer program you can sign up for. Visit their site to fill out an application: https://www.mcwane.org/join/volunteer/teen-program/
Helping out your community, especially since we are nearing the holiday, always brings joy to both you and others. All these programs are still currently accepting applications, so consider giving one a glance!