Building independent futures through community engagement in Middle School

A self-directed approach to service learning in MLC’s Middle School builds deeper understanding and an appreciation in students for the impact they can make, beyond the classroom, to the wider community.

“In Middle School at MLC we believe self-determination is fundamental to achieving positive and meaningful outcomes. Students are asked to think about their personal skills, talents and interests and how they could share these with others in the community,” explains Head of Middle School, Beth Gerondis.  

“Young people take ownership for their volunteer experiences when they are able to make independent choices,” she says.

Middle School’s flagship service learning program is ‘Contribution to the Community’, or CTC, which requires all Year 10 students to provide a minimum of 10 hours’ community service to an organisation (or organisations) of their choice.

“Through CTC, our students develop their awareness of different facets and social issues in society and come to understand that the community functions because people help each other,” explains Beth. “Many students actually exceed the 10 hour requirement by a significant number of hours."

“It is really a fantastic program,” says Year 10 student Quinn McCurry. “You can contribute to volunteer groups or charities of your choosing as long as they fulfill the program criteria. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to choose which organisations to support.”

For Quinn, a personal challenge to participate in as many volunteer opportunities that came her way as possible has culminated in a genuine pleasure and desire to remain involved in the local community.

“It is easy to feel like there are many issues in the community that you are unable to help improve,” says Quinn, who this year has volunteered for Cancer Council Victoria through the Hawthorn Relay for Life event, Cystic Fibrosis Victoria and also the Friends of Boroondara Cemetery.

“My volunteer experiences through CTC have changed my perspective because I can see that my efforts are helping others. People will come up to you as you work and thank you because they appreciate the effort that you’re putting in.”
 
Year 10 Student, Rachel Loh agrees. An enthusiastic volunteer, Rachel has contributed to numerous charity events this year, including Cancer Council Victoria’s Hawthorn Relay for Life and the Special Olympics State Games.

“As a volunteer at the Special Olympics State Games I was able to help with the event logistics over the course of the competition,” explains Rachel. “This helped me hone organisational skills and also gave me the chance to speak with contestants and family members, which was a real privilege.”

Active participation in service learning is designed to increase Middle School students’ social awareness beyond the MLC Community.

“The diverse range of opportunities provides for growth in students’ understanding, acceptance and responsibility,” explains Beth. “Through their volunteering experience students become aware of the reciprocity of sharing and learning.”

“The opportunity to work with and learn about people from different backgrounds and ages has been the highlight of my volunteer experience,” says Rachel. “Working alongside a diverse group of people has also improved my confidence and communication abilities.”

The autonomous nature of the CTC program helps equip students with essential 21st century skills such as teamwork, problem solving and lateral thinking.

“The CTC program has definitely provided me with the skills and confidence to start applying for part-time employment,” says Quinn. “I can use the same process when I apply for a job, that I do when approaching a charity for a volunteer position.”

“Volunteering is a very important aspect of students’ futures,” explains Beth.

“Employers and universities repeatedly report that they look closely at any applicant’s volunteer experience. If students can show that they have contributed to the community outside of their family, school and social setting, this is viewed very favourably.”