Red Lodge High School has implemented a new graduation requirement. Beginning with freshman this year, students will be required to log volunteer hours in order to receive their high school diploma. Next year it will include sophomores, and so on, until the entire school is involved. The high school has paired up with a new group that is part of the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation. It is called the Future of Montana: Volunteer Corps.
The main goals of the Volunteer Corps are to match students with available volunteer opportunities in our community, and to be sure that the students are receiving credit for the great things they are doing. The Corps acts as a match-maker, keeping track of students’ interests, and pairing them with non-profit organizations that fall within those fields.
At the helm is Rue Freeman. She spends her time working to get students involved in the community, and also providing them with “proof” of their work. The Community Foundation logs the hours that the students volunteer, in order to provide them with reliable information for college applications and resumes. She is also happy to provide letters of reference, which include all of the student’s volunteer work. “This person might know about five hours of their work, and this person might have worked with them for a day or two, but I know about both, and can provide a letter that encompasses all of it,” she told us. “We have some really incredible kids here in Red Lodge!”
Rue explained that there are dozens of non-profit groups and various organizations for adults to be involved in. “Our schools are small enough that everyone is involved in everything. There needed to be a way for the students to get involved with these organizations also.” The Volunteer Corps is building mutually beneficial relationships between students and area nonprofits. The students are learning, as well as helping.
College admissions offices are requiring so much out of students these days. They not only need good grades, but also sports, speech and drama, FFA, and numerous other activities in order to stand out. Volunteering provides these students with the opportunity to show off their work ethic, dedication and commitment, and community involvement. “By tracking the hours of volunteer work these students are doing, we’re allowing them to show colleges that they’re not just qualified as a student, but also as a person – as a contributing community member.” Rue said. She also points out that with students being so busy trying to accomplish all of these things, it’s of great help to them to have a list of volunteer opportunities that the students don’t have to spend hours seeking them out.
The Red Lodge Area Community Foundation website outlines the program as follows:
- Matches student interests to local volunteering opportunities with local non-profit organizations
- Ensures diverse volunteer options, educational opportunities, safety, and a large variety of incentives
- Tracks hours of service for each student for high school transcripts in partnership with Red Lodge High School
- Provides letters of recommendation to volunteering students in the program for college and job applications
- Collaborates with local schools to promote character building, youth leadership, and community involvement
- Students gain experience for future pursuits such as applying for jobs and college
- Non-profit organizations gain access to an organized volunteer pool for events, routine tasks, and small jobs
Volunteering isn’t just a job. It’s a lifestyle. Our community is so rich with volunteers and caring people, and we all want to be sure that the next generation maintains those values. Thank you to all of the volunteers, both students and adults, that make Red Lodge the greatest place to live.