Volunteer: It's a Foot in the Door, and a Look Inside

During my university education, I often wondered what I was going to do with my life; an experience with which many students are familiar. I was trying to think of ways to build my resume while I was in school and I decided that I should volunteer in the community. I first heard about Let's Talk Science and their Adventures in Science program during one of my biology lectures. The program sends groups of undergraduates out to Girl Guides' and Boy Scouts' meetings to do fun, hands-on Science and provide youth with young role models in science. I signed up and began visiting youth groups in the evenings.

After I graduated from the University of Western Ontario with my Bachelor of Science degree, I still didn't know what I was going to do with my life; but I knew that I loved facilitating hands-on teaching science to Guides and Scouts. Based on my volunteer work, Let's Talk Science offered me a part-time position, managing the Adventures in Science program. This quickly led to a full-time job, as program coordinator in London, Ontario (the head office of Let's Talk Science), in March of 1996. The position was basically created for me--they had a lot of work that needed to be done, but at the time they didn't have the funds for a full-time person. (Around the office they used to jokingly refer to me as the "slush fund.") They probably wouldn't have posted or hired anyone, but I was around, and the timing was right.

As the London program coordinator, I developed and delivered in-class programming and began involving Let's Talk Science in many interesting community activities. I also became involved with other programs offered by Let's Talk Science, including Science Now!, a professional development workshop to help elementary school teachers better develop hands-on tools for teaching science, and Focus On Youth, a series of workshops and science programs for children aged 3 to 14.

In the spring of 1997 I was offered, what I know now to be, an amazing opportunity. I was asked if I would be interested in filling the position of regional coordinator in Alberta; the position was a new one and I would be responsible for starting up the office in Alberta and introducing our programs to teachers and students in Edmonton. I thought about it for one evening and I accepted the job. In August of 1997, I packed up my car and drove across the country. After 4 days on the road I arrived in Edmonton, my new home and place of business. For the first year of operation in Alberta, my apartment was also our office, but things have changed a great deal since then.

I am now the regional director for Western Canada. As regional director I am a member of the national management committee and I am involved with strategic planning for the organization. I am responsible for implementing the strategic plan in Western Canada, which involves building and managing a team based in Vancouver and Edmonton. I also play a critical role in external relations in the West. I regularly work with representatives of all our stakeholders: students, educators, government officials, scientists, corporations, professional associations, and other charitable organizations.

The diversity of my job is something that I am grateful for everyday. I am continuously challenged to learn new things and draw on expert advice to lend me the perspective required to succeed at being an advocate for science education. If I were to give advice to students, I'd say that you should spend some time volunteering for various organizations in your community. Volunteer experience not only looks good on your resume, but if you take on interesting and challenging tasks, you can develop employability skills that will give you more of an edge in a constantly evolving job market. In my case, volunteering my time actually led to a very rewarding career.

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