April is National Volunteer Month. Recent studies show that the majority of those who volunteer are females; however, the data also shows a lack of interest in volunteering among younger generations.
In an effort to create a positive ripple for change, the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry developed the Lancaster Chamber Women in Business Mentoring Program. The eight-month interactive program was established to provide career exploration opportunities and learning experiences for female students in their junior year of high school. The program currently serves 118 female students from 15 school districts within the county.
The students are matched with a business professional (a mentor) who connects the students with a number of possible career options that are linked to their interests, including STEM and non-traditional careers for women. The program also introduces possible educational paths that will be required, the importance of social responsibility and one-on-one experiences through job shadowing opportunities.
Lancaster County Magazine Publisher Jocelyn Engle has been involved with the program for more than six years. She began as a mentor and is now a liaison, working with her assigned school, the school’s representative and the mentor. “The ability to experience multiple components of how the program works, the moving parts and the integrity of the Chamber to enhance both the mentor and mentee experience year over year has been remarkable,” she says.
On March 19, the program held a volunteer day where each student participated for 2-½ hours in a volunteer experience. The participating schools chose local nonprofits located within each school’s community:
* Manheim Township High School did not participate that day due to a separate school function.
“Everybody had a really different type of opportunity at all of these different nonprofit organizations,” Jocelyn says. “The point of the whole thing is giving back to our community, social responsibility, and driving home the fact that you don’t need a certain skill to be able to volunteer at organizations.”
Afterward, the students, mentors and other advisory members met at the Eden Resort for lunch. Following the lunch, each school had two student representatives present their day’s experience, answering the following questions:
– Where did they go?
– Why did their school choose that location?
– What was the impact of their volunteer time?
– Who does the nonprofit serve, or what does the nonprofit provide for the community?
Some of the students spent their time cleaning at their nonprofit organizations while others stuffed envelopes for an upcoming benefit or visited with elderly residents at a retirement community.
“I think it was eye opening for them. I think it’s an awareness of what is in your community, and how can you serve and get involved at a young age in an organization,” Jocelyn explains. “It also made them realize that it doesn’t have to be a set number of hours a week; it can be a couple hours a month.”
She also added, “We’re always seeking mentors in a variety of different industries because the students are interested in so many different things. … It is really fun, and it has personally been a very rewarding experience.”
If you are interested in becoming involved with the Lancaster Chamber Women in Business Mentoring Program, contact Sandi Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.