No regrets for youth volunteers

Carl Sy (left) receives a certificate of appreciation from Sonya Jahn for his efforts with the Youth-in-Action volunteer program. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

When her father suggested she start volunteering with the Youth-in-Action Volunteer Program in Prince Albert, Jayden Bissky had a quick answer: no.

There was nothing wrong with the health region. She was just nervous about doing something outside of her comfort zone. Things changed after hearing a presentation about volunteering at school, and for the next five winters, Bissky was an eager member of Youth-in-Action.

By the end of those five years, she’d grown to love it.

“The thing that really drew me in was how many youth volunteers there were, and just how much good they could do,” she explained. “I told my dad that if he didn’t make me volunteer at the hospital, I would want to do it at the SPCA. I wanted to help people. I was just nervous.”

Bissky wasn’t the only student who saw her life change during her time in the program. Whether it was with words or deeds, the value of student volunteers quickly became apparent.

On Wednesday, she was one of 110 student volunteers from the Prince Albert area recognized for their efforts over the last school year. As a Grade 12 student at St. Mary High School, this is the last time she’ll be involved with the program, but the experience won’t be forgotten any time soon.

“Giving time is the best thing you can give,” she said. “Just giving a smile or (having) that quick conversation can totally help turn someone’s day around.”

Students like Bissky value their time in the program, which places student volunteers at Victoria Hospital, Pineview Terrace and the Herb Bassett Home, and the feeling is mutual.

Volunteer services coordinator Sonya Jahn said residents and staff alike feel a lot lonelier when the students are gone for the summer. Saying good-bye to the older students, many of which have spent four or five years in the program, is difficult.

“We’ve seen how they’ve grown and matured and shared their talents and skills with our patients and residents, and now it’s time for them to go on and go to their future endeavours,” Jahn said. “We’re grateful for all the contributions that they’ve made.”

However, Tuesday’s ceremony wasn’t just about saying thank you. It was also about recognizing hard work from the students who went the extra mile.

For years, organizations like the Prince Albert Lions Club, as well as a few local residents, have created scholarships and bursaries for students who give their time and effort. It’s their way of recognizing a lot of good work that goes on behind the scenes.

“They never replace the staff members at any time, but they certainly compliment their work,” Jahn said.

In total, Prince Albert and area students contributed roughly 5,500 hours of service as youth volunteers during the 2017-18 school year. A total of 70 youth received the Lions’ Club International Silver certificate for exemplary volunteer service of at least 50 hours.