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Where do you stand?

By Jessica Peake, Bachelor of Media and Communications and Bachelor of Psychology

“Where do you stand” was my favourite activity that I facilitated when I volunteered recently at the Mitchell Youth Leadership Forum, a two and a half day live-in program for Year 11 students to develop their leadership potential that is strongly centred around the values of courage, service and integrity.

In our current Covid-19 climate, conducting this activity over Zoom added a new layer of complexity where students were challenged to step outside of their comfort zones and share opinions with a small group of students in a breakout room, because who doesn’t love a breakout room? More specifically, they shared their opinions as to whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “Community Service should be mandatory in schools”. The most interesting part? No fence sitting allowed!

As I listened to each valid and mature argument raised by the students, each from a different walk of life, I was compelled to reflect upon how I came to be involved with the Global Leadership Program, where Experiential Credit provides flexible and extensive opportunities to volunteer locally, regionally or internationally amongst many other activities. I pondered what it was exactly that attracted me to the GLP, and more critically – why I chose, and still continue to choose to volunteer.

During my own high school experience, outwardly I was very involved in the community in the spirit of school culture. My friends and I all bearing our shiny prefect and SRC badges were happy to contribute and run the school fundraisers and of course, deliver singing telegrams on Valentine’s Day. Did we pay attention to which organisation we were raising needed funds for? Did we do it because we had a deeply seated urge to give back? Or did we love an opportunity to hang out outside of the classroom? Clearly option C was much more fitting of a carefree and mischievous generation Z zoomer.

As I aged through the years, the need to be involved grew as I signed up for leadership roles and community service opportunities external to high school. So one might assume I would be an instant "Yes" vote for the implementation of mandatory community service in schools?

Upon reflection, I realised that I was so drawn to the GLP because of the choices I had – I wasn’t forced into a specific sector where my skills and interests wouldn’t be utilised. Instead, I was able to select exactly where my time went and how I spent it – this, I feel, makes me more committed to the experiences I chose to invest in and also, allows myself to enjoy them!

Being motivated to join in with community services was, for me, a by-product of holding a leadership position. So you might then be wondering about the majority of students who did not comprise the leadership team; were they soulless and selfish for not wanting to give back? No, how ridiculous of you, I mean me, to suggest it! I have seen those same students who weren’t the first to speak up in class, quietly serve and achieve in different spheres as they progressed through adulthood. I wonder how things may be different if they were compelled to participate in the same programs as me – would they still be doing those wonderful things, or would their discomfort in the mandatory arena have quashed their love of volunteering and giving back?

I firmly believe that everyone has their own set of individual traits and talents which make them unique and perfect for areas which align with their interests. To use a perhaps overused, but ever relevant Albert Einstein quote: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s life forever believing that it is stupid.”

We have an innate desire to assist others and show compassion – who are we to say how and when that should be done?


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