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Volunteer Connect: A lifeline for graduating High School seniors

By Carin R. Kirkegaard

It’s here – 2020 has arrived. For those high school seniors who have been counting the years to graduation with each passing grade, it’s now only a few more months away.

The Douglas County School District (DCSD), as part of graduation requirements, has every high school senior complete 20 hours of community service. Each student has from the summer after eighth grade until April of their graduation year to complete at least the minimum of 20 hours of volunteering. For some students, 20 hours is a walk in the park. For others, graduating in May is off the table if the hours aren’t completed.

Douglas County’s Volunteer Connect is an online community resource that links volunteers with organizations looking for help. Since 2014, organizations have been joining the online directory regularly. There is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities available, from single events to short-term and long-term commitments.

Stacey Estelle, a career and college coach with DCSD, teaches a high school class that highlights the benefits of volunteering. Her goal is to reach those students who have zero hours toward graduation accumulated in the volunteer bank.

“Many of these students struggle with how to make a connection. There is a fear of not knowing what to expect, and many think volunteering needs to be hard,” said Estelle.

In her class, Estelle focuses on the benefits of volunteering. She encourages students to get their community services hours from a variety of sources. This allows students to experience different work environments. A student could think they really want to work with children and discover that is the last job they would want to have after volunteering. The reverse may also be true. After volunteering to help fix donated bicycles, a student could discover that they love working with their hands.

Volunteer opportunities provide valuable work experience for students who sometimes haven’t even had their first job. Additionally, supervisors of volunteer projects make great references for future job or college applications.

Estelle encourages the students she works with to get started early on accumulating volunteer hours. Douglas County’s Volunteer Connect is a great resource to start, and it has helped many of her students with graduation looming get hours quickly. Other places where students can look for volunteer opportunities include food banks, former elementary schools, churches, recreation centers and each DCSD high school has a volunteer board with opportunities posted throughout the year.

For some students, the barrier to volunteering is a fear of doing it wrong, said Estelle. “But, no one gets fired from volunteering,” she continued. “Feeling appreciated is so important for building self-esteem at this age. Volunteering definitely makes you feel good,” she concluded.

To learn more about Douglas County’s Volunteer Connect,visit



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