by Lindsay Broadfield
As I work with my high school chapters on a day to day basis, we generally focus on the normal things – planning events, booking speakers, fundraising, etc. While this all sounds part and parcel with what we do here at Stand on the chapter level, I occasionally like to highlight to the chapter reps what they are actually learning. Life skills. Yeah, life skills. These are the things that are written on resumes, mentioned in interviews, and listed on application forms. They seem annoying at the time when you are writing them all down to sell yourself off for a job, but they are required. Eventually, there is an appreciation for them.
At first, working within a Stand chapter doesn’t feel like learning life skills. I know this because I have been there, as have all of our directors and chapter leaders. And yet, critical life and job skills are being practiced at each meeting: organization and agenda planning, moderating discussions, leadership, teamwork – they are all there. And these are employable skills!
Planning and running events offers another set of skills that can be acquired: budgeting, goal setting, and responsibility. Giving presentations can help with building on public speaking skills and confidence. Discussing and debating the ins and outs of the conflict and international responses to it can be seen as enhancing your critical thinking and ability to be open and able to listen to other’s ideas.
Through working with a Stand chapter, you can see it as just being an advocate for our cause. However, you can also see it as an opportunity to grow. Once you recognize that, it is easier to find the areas that you aren’t as strong in. If you so choose, you can have the opportunity to hone in on these skills, and enhance them. Have a hard time with presentations? Why not prepare one on a specific topic involving Darfur, or genocide, and ask to spend some time at your next chapter meeting and present it? Have trouble working with groups? (As perfectionists know, sometimes perfectionism can get in the way…) Tackle a team project, like organizing an event.
I’ve already covered some of the more “employable” skills, but what about the ones that enrich your life? How about socialization, igniting passion, and self-motivation? Being a political advocate doesn’t make you a crazy person, as the media sometimes depicts us, but is an outlet allowing yourself to discover who you are, and what values you truly believe in. That in itself can help to build confidence in yourself.
At the end of the day, working with a Stand chapter can only offer you what you take from it. Do you want to work on bettering some of these skills? This is definitely a great place for you to do so. And for those of us who are thinking of employability, being able to pin point skills that you learned in your volunteering experiences is extremely helpful. For those of you already involved in chapters, take a moment to reflect on which of these skills you use in your chapter, and how they have evolved by being a part of your group.
As you can see, there are so many more benefits from being involved in a chapter aside from taking action to promote the awareness of genocide, and promoting a free and fair election in Sudan this January. While it might not be a magical 75% off at Tim Hortons card (I can only wish!), the lessons and skills you can gain from working in a chapter are major benefits that you can personally take advantage of. So take it for what it is!
Lindsay Broadfield is Stand Canada’s High School Chapter Director.