How to tackle your 40 hours of community service

Students picking up litter
Jacqueline Written by Jacqueline (she/her), student

Getting involved in the community is a great way to build up your résumé and gain experience!

If you’re an Ontario high school student, it’s no secret that you’re required to complete volunteer activities in your community in order to earn your diploma. Here's some tips to get you started!

Ways you can get involved

One of the best places to start looking for volunteer work is at your local volunteer centre. To find yours, the Ontario Volunteer Centre Network has created a map of centres in Ontario. With so many opportunities out there, my suggestion is to volunteer with an organization you’re familiar with or passionate about. If you aren’t sure if something counts as volunteering, double-check with your school board. Here are a few places to volunteer for you to consider:

Volunteer photographer

Your current or previous school(s)

One of the easiest ways to fulfill your volunteer hours is to help at your former elementary or middle school. Schools often host events and fundraisers, and it also doubles as an excuse to see the teachers you miss. Your high school may also have different events going on that need volunteers. Ask around or connect with student clubs to see what’s going on.

I volunteered at school fundraising events. I earned around 10-12 hours every year, so I had all the required hours by the end of high school.

AASDEEP, Accounting and Financial Management student

Community events and community projects

There are always events going on in the community, which means volunteers are needed. Think of charity runs, marches, toy drives, or art exhibitions. Check out your city’s website to see what’s on and where. In addition to events, there are organizations in the community that need volunteers throughout the year, like soup kitchens and food banks.

Volunteering in a food bank.

Sports and recreation

If you’re a sports lover and want to keep your volunteer hours tailored toward this passion, there are so many ways to get involved. Many high school teams need scorekeepers or timekeepers. The same is true for elementary school sports. If you love the idea of teaching your favourite sport, you could help coach or instruct different sports or recreational activities. Another way you can get involved is through sports associations, as they are also often looking for volunteers for events or camps.

I coached Grade 8 volleyball, instructed sailing in the summer, and did the timekeeping for hockey games.

EVAN, Physics student

The best way to find opportunities is by asking former coaches or teachers involved in the sports leagues/associations. You might also find volunteer opportunities at Canadian-UniversitiesSpecial Olympics Ontario, or Toronto Athletic Camps.

Environmental initiatives and supporting animals

Do you love the outdoors and helping the environment? Well, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities for you! Talk to your local conservation area, they could likely use your help. Maybe fieldwork isn’t exactly what you want to do. If that’s the case, many organizations still need help in the office where you can gain environmental knowledge. If you’re more of an animal lover, you can volunteer at local animal shelters, animal sanctuaries, or veterinarian clinics.

Student volunteer with dog.

Some good sites to check out include: Canadian-UniversitiesOntario Wildlife RescueOntario NatureGood WorkNature Conservancy Canada, and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Youth programs or volunteering with seniors

If you love working with youth, you could get involved with Scouts Canada or Girl Guides Canada. Summer camps are also a great option as they often need counsellors and leaders. If you’re interested in becoming a teacher or librarian, local libraries are always looking for reading buddies.

Maybe you want to volunteer with seniors — seniors love visitors! Ask your local retirement or long-term care home about volunteer opportunities. You may get to help make crafts, play games, or even teach seniors how to use computers.

Student with a senior.

Health care opportunities

If you’re looking at going into health care, volunteering at your local hospital is a great way to learn how the health care system works. Canadian Blood Services also needs volunteers to help with blood donations. You could also check out Ontario Health Coalition or the Canadian Cancer Society for opportunities.  

Religious opportunities

If you’re a religious person, no matter which faith you follow, there are always opportunities for youth to get involved. It could be leading a youth group or helping at a community dinner.

Benefits of volunteering

Still feeling like you just want to get the volunteer hours over with? What’s the rush? Volunteering offers many benefits and can help you build strong connections — connections that may help you with your future career. If you speed through those hours, you may be missing out on the following opportunities.

Two volunteers smiling with each other.

Gain work experience and transferable skills

You don’t need to be paid to gain workplace skills. You can develop effective communication, teamwork, administrative, and people skills while volunteering. These skills can be transferred to any workplace, and can help you advance your career by helping you get future jobs.

Explore/ discover different interests

If you’re passionate about a number of different things, that’s okay. You can always choose to divvy up your hours and volunteer at multiple organizations. You might even discover a new passion or interest!

I developed my time management, coordination, cooperation, and communication skills from my time volunteering.

— Fourth-year Environment student

Widen your social circle

When you volunteer at an organization doing something you enjoy, you’re likely to meet people who share similar interests. Volunteering also connects you to a larger network. If you do a good job, your supervisor may write you a reference letter or offer to be a recommendation for future jobs. You could even luck out and get a part-time job within the organization.

Still not sure what type of volunteer you are?
Take this quiz from Volunteer Canada to help you figure out where your best fit is.

Volunteering may seem like a big hurdle in high school, but there are many benefits of getting involved in your community! You may even discover that volunteering is quite fun and pursue it throughout university.


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