Getting started with START.
By Faraz Hassany
While not officially classified as a club, the Kwantlen Student Association’s START program is providing opportunities to students that many are taking advantage of. They give students a chance to get involved, gain valuable life experience, and create lasting networks.
The program runs on all four KPU campuses, and is funded by the KSA. They help students get involved in the community and provide them with volunteer opportunities, as well as training in various fields.
“Basically the program is for students to get involved with campus life so they can learn about the university experience, and with student life in general,” says Stephanie Chee, who works for the program. “It helps them familiarize themselves with the area and environment.”
Chee emphasizes the benefits of volunteering, noting that, “It helps them learn many skills that they couldn’t learn elsewhere. In my personal opinion, it’s not just about claiming as many hours as possible, it’s the experience that you retain from volunteering and the bonds that you make when you volunteer for the first time at [KPU].”
She points out that after high school many students “just disperse,” and volunteering is a way to foster new relationships. “You get the opportunity to start a platform for yourself and volunteering for the student [association] is a good opportunity because it involves building relationships and skills that you may not obtain somewhere else–a lot of it has to do with networking.”
Students looking to get involved in the program apply online, and then go through an interview and integration process. Chee says that while they do ask for resumes, they’re not strict on resume strength or experience that a student has. “We’re looking for students who are passionate and want to help out in the community,” she says.
The START program is also flexible, and only requires eight hours a semester of volunteering to keep a student’s profile active. There’s no limit to how much you can volunteer.
“We actively pursue external opportunities for volunteers, we do work along with other organizations, such as ICBC,” says Chee. “We have the capability to send students out in the community to volunteer and help out wherever they are needed.”
In addition to volunteer opportunities, the START program has other benefits, including the START mini school (their training school), which has programs like first aid, Food Safe, workplace hazard information and guitar, DJ and photography lessons.
One of their most recent projects was the therapy dogs workshop, and they host other workshops for psychological well-being.
“To be honest, I’ve never heard of a volunteer program that has a mini school and also trains its volunteers with necessary and fun skills to help them succeed, and that is what makes the START program unique,” says Chee.
To sum it up, she provided a nifty abbreviation befitting the likeness of volunteer work: “L.I.F.E. V.”–Learn, Interpret, Familiarize, Execute and Value. Their philosophy is aptly summarized in a quote from their promotional brochure: “You have never really lived until you have done something for someone, who can never repay you.”
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