Written by Janet Wang
On Nov. 17, the Youth Community Service-Interact (YCS-Interact) club hosted its first Fall Service Fair, in which over 15 organizations offered volunteer opportunities to students. The various organizations provide diverse resources for students to get involved with their community. Some of the organizations ranged from Abilities United, which supports children and adults with disabilities, to the MidPeninsula Regional Open Space, which assists in recreational, park and social services.
YCS-Interact annually hosts a spring Service Day, an event where students participate in off-campus community service for one day. However, the club decided it wanted more students to engage in long-term service, so it planned the Fall ServiceFair. YCS-Interact Co-President senior Brian Hill says the ServiceFair was planned so that students could build connections with their causes. “The idea was really rooted in creating long-term volunteering partnerships,” he said. “We do a lot of runs and one-time events, but really, creating a partnership and going every weekend or every other weekend is something really valuable to have because you get that relationship with the organization and a close- ness to the cause.”
Board member junior Anushka Joshi says the Fall Service Fair allows opportunities for service to be more accessible. “We wanted to bring service onto campus as well and give opportunities there,” she said. “[Service is] important because it helps people who don’t have things that you have, and it’s important to take care of the world around you and reach out into your community.”
Interact Co-Vice President senior Giannina Yu says the service fair promotes continuous service and commitment. “The difference is when you go to Service Day, if you help clean up the beach for Half Moon Bay Reserve, you clean up and you never see the beach again,” she said. “The [Fall] Service Fair allows you to find something to do throughout the whole year and it makes the service more meaningful.”
Yu volunteers with organizations that revolve around helping kids, and says that the most rewarding part of long-term service is watching the kids grow. “You see how they change from one summer to the next summer,” Yu said. “That’s something that you can really get from the service. If you volunteered to tutor throughout the whole year, it makes a difference because you can see how they struggled in the beginning of the year, and at the end of the year, they are more self-sufficient.”
Initially, Hill was concerned that the club’s work would go to waste if there were no student attendees. “We were planning everything–we got all the organizations to come, we had decorations set up, the tables and everything looked good—and I was worried that no one was going to show up,” he said. “I had one site tell me that she’s gone to service fairs at other high schools and they were more reluctant to talk to her. At Gunn, students walked right up and talked to her and she was impressed.”
Sophomore Carolyn Kuimelis, who has been involved with volunteer work since elementary school, attended the Service Fair hoping to explore more volunteering options. “For a while, I’ve really liked being involved in service and I wanted to see what other service opportunities were out there and there were a ton of organizations that were happy to have high schoolers help,” she said. “I know a lot of people have a hard time getting service hours or want new experiences with community service. It’s cool that YCS-Interact made it so available to everyone.”
Kuimelis says service benefits both the volunteer and the community. Not only does service help her grow as a person, but it also allows Kuimelis to use opportunities to help others. “In one way or an- other, it’s going to better you as a person and your community,” she said. “Community service helps you realize the privilege that you have and it helps you give back to people who don’t have the privilege. It gets you out of your comfort zone and try new things that are rewarding.
For Hill, community service holds a lot of meaning. “Service is important because we take so much from our community, and it’s important to give back to it,” he said. “It opens your eyes to the needs of others. It’s our duty to use our own resources to help those who don’t have them.”