By Kevin Niu, Wisconsin-Upper Michigan District governor
One of the most prominent clubs at my high school is Key Club, but exactly what is Key Club? Though it might not seem obvious from the name, Key Club is “an international, student-led organization that provides its members with opportunities to provide service, build character and develop leadership.” Key Club offers an extremely important opportunity for high school students around the globe: the opportunity to serve others.
As our world becomes more and more individualistic, serving others and volunteering are amazing ways to connect with others and build character. Today, more than ever, our country is divided, one side against the other. Volunteering and service work offer ways to bridge the gap between people and connect both sides for a greater good. When people are helping each other, the human connection is the only thing that matters, not political views or religious beliefs. No matter where you stand on different issues, helping others and building a stronger community should be a common mindset that everyone shares.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, volunteering was a cornerstone of my life. I would try to get out and serve at least once a week. Though events were often long and time-consuming, they have given me some of the greatest moments of my entire high school experience. One of my favorite events happened at our city’s farmers market. Every other Saturday morning at 5 a.m., I would drive to the market and help some farmers set up their stands. I love this event because I get to meet some amazing people, and the morning air and feeling are just amazing (though waking up at 4:30 a.m. is not ideal). While this doesn’t sound like extremely important or impactful work for the community, events like these teach important lessons.
One of the most important lessons that volunteering teaches is that positive actions create positive reactions. When you go out and volunteer, you can see the effect that your positive actions bring to the people around you and the surrounding community. This lesson really hit me when I was at an event called The Gathering. (The Gathering is a local soup kitchen in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area providing meals to the hungry and the homeless population.) During the event, I was able to see just how impactful my actions were. Seeing the smiles on people’s faces as we served them food was the most amazing feeling in the world and knowing we had made their days better made the entire event extremely fulfilling.
Another important lesson that service teaches is empathy. When you’re out helping others, you start experiencing moments of empathy. As you connect with different people and their situations, you begin to understand and empathize with others. These empathetic feelings help build a community where people care for each other and aren’t afraid to lend a hand to help their neighbors.
Finally, service teaches the important lesson of sacrificing to help others. Oftentimes, service events require lots of hard work, from hard manual labor to loads of administrative work, but these sacrifices end up producing incredible rewards. The satisfaction that comes from helping others is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and the hard work put in also benefits the community as a whole.
Yet, there are still a lot of people who are opposed to clubs like Key Club. These people claim that Key Club doesn’t always provide actual service opportunities; instead, it provides volunteers for events that are just looking for free labor of sorts. And contrary to what you might think, I actually agree with this statement to a degree. I agree that many of the events that Key Club offers provide volunteers for events that want some sort of free labor or free help, but that’s just not the point. However, just the notion of going out and volunteering installs an important idea into students. By encouraging students to go out and help someone else, Key Club teaches a generation of students about the importance of taking time out of your own life to help and support others. When many of these Key Clubbers grow up, they will continue to go out of their way to help others, and that makes the club amazing. As these students grow, they will begin to find bigger and more impactful organizations that support their beliefs and goals, expanding their positive benefits to their community and the world.
Service clubs like Key Club are some of the greatest clubs out there for high school students. I would encourage every high schooler to join Key Club, and I would encourage every high school in the world to create a Key Club. No matter how big or small the volunteer work, the benefits that come from helping others are profound. If we want to change our world for the better, we have to start small, and a great place to begin is by creating a generation of students who are willing to spend their time helping others.