|Volume 10, Issue 12||
Sunset High Key Club connects kids to community
With over 100 members this year, the Key Club is one of the largest activity groups at Sunset. The purpose of the club is to connect students to volunteer opportunities in the local area and beyond. Members meet every Friday afternoon while school’s in session to share information about projects, sign up for activities, and celebrate their successes.
Each member is expected to complete at least four hours of volunteer work each semester. Activities range from helping with fundraisers and improvement projects on campus, to working with agencies and organizations to help others in the area.
For many students, the initial motivation for joining the group is to get something that looks good on their resumé for college admission. But personal growth and skill development turns out to be a greater benefit for most participants.
Sarah Rausch, Sunset senior and Key Club president, recalls that she was very nervous when she had to give a speech during her freshman year, when she ran for Club Secretary. “Now I can conduct a meeting in front of this big group and feel comfortable with it. It’s really helped me a lot.”
The students enjoy volunteering for hands-on activities and, as club Vice President Ailin Jiang puts it, “They like to know what exactly their help influences, and what their work leads to, such as helping the homeless have a good Christmas, or helping a family in need.” One popular activity that recurs regularly throughout the year involves going to the Oregon Humane Society to interact with dogs at the shelter, to keep them socialized and ready for adoption.
That can be challenging though, since there are no school funds for buses to get students to North Portland for the work. But parents get involved too, driving groups to that and other activities. Another monthly volunteer job is to help out at the Oregon Food Bank. “We work in a walk-in freezer,” explains Rausch, “breaking down large packages of frozen vegetables into portions to go out to the various food distribution facilities. It’s fun because it’s something different, and we know it’s helping people.”
All Sunset students are expected to put in some time volunteering in the community, and Key Club makes that easier by connecting the students with community groups who need help. Co-secretary Zuri Johnson admits, “I honestly joined for honors history during freshman year, but I stayed in the club for multiple years after that because I love the easy access to volunteer opportunities around the community. It is an easy way to volunteer with friends.”
Johnson says that her favorite volunteer job was, “where we helped needy families pick out presents for their loved ones. It was in a small room with lots of toys, stuffed animals and clothing, sorted by age group, on the tables. They also had giftwrap and stocking stuffers. I liked this project a lot because you got to see the people you are helping, and they were all so happy. I like being able to see the difference I am making in someone's life. It was also eye opening that all of their Christmas "shopping" happened in that small 15-foot square room.”
The other co-Secretary, Rachel Conover, says, “My favorite project was Race For the Cure. We cleaned up the convention center, and then set up on the Waterfront. It was meaningful to me because instead of seeing it as a participant I got to see what a big production it was and its impact.”
Key Club International was founded in 1925 by members of a California Kiwanis Club who wanted to provide an opportunity for boys similar to what the adult club offered in helping them serve their communities. Under the sponsorship of Kiwanis, the club grew across the country. It wasn’t until 1987 that girls were included in the membership. The Sunset group has been active for about 14 years. It is led by English teacher Michelle Marsh and the student board. Members of a local Kiwanis Club also help guide the group.
Students can apply to join the club during the first part of each school year. To stay in the group, they must put in their required four hours per term. The $20 yearly membership fee goes to pay district and international fees, with a portion of the money retained for club expenses, donations, and parties.
Rausch says her goal for her term as President is to “get 100% participation from the membership. Last year, about 30% of the members didn’t do anything. Our goal for participation is even higher this year, so the board is working hard to encourage the members to sign up for activities.” The group has it’s own Google website, where students can look at a calendar to find opportunities (sites.google.com/site/sunsetkeyclub).
Community groups who can provide good volunteer opportunities for the Key Club can contact Sarah by phone (503-608-2684) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). She notes that a good activity is well-organized, with clear expectations, plenty of work (so students don’t have to sit around waiting for something to do), and involves something where volunteers know how their time is making a difference.
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