Bridge Volunteering Opens Hub Near High School

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MTT News's picture
Michelle Phillips
Bridge Volunteering has an official home on Parmenter St. near Middleton High School, which it calls “the hub.” The goal is to offer volunteering opportunities for high school students. The space, pictured above will also give kids a place to socialize.

MIDDLETON–Shaney Andler is not new to volunteering, and the Middleton special education teacher wanted to pass that on to high school students, so she started Bridge Volunteering last year, and serves as its president. Now the organization that is geared toward student with mental health issue, though open to all, will have a home.

Andler is opening a hub for volunteer projects that students can chose to help fulfill their required service hours. The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District requires that all student have 40 hours of service hours to graduate, with two kids of her own Andler found the requirement challenging to achieve. “

I think this a great intention but it just doesn’t “function” as I thought it should in the current set up. Kids now have to sort of do it on their own-find opportunities and record the hours ‘on your honor.’ Since I have this strong belief in volunteering and I knew how many kids are struggling with mental health issues, I came up with the idea of Bridge Volunteering. It really is just making the service-learning component a little more relevant, organized and “therapeutic” in a way,” she explained. 

She said she envisions the hub as a place where kids can gather not only to find volunteering jobs, but also a place to socialize. “The hub is a safe, comfortable, “cool" space that is walking distance from the high school. It will function as a meeting place for kids to connect with themselves, peers, adults and the community. There will be a volunteer “project” going on at Bridge at all times but the opportunities “advertised” on the chalkboard wall at Bridge will primarily be off site,” Andler said.

She said she has about 40 adult volunteers ready work with students on their projects as well as take them to the offsite locations. “I have a list of over 40 adults who want to volunteer at the space as well as facilitate groups to off site events. The group I have come up with has been strategically chosen as they are all involved, positive, caring, role model types. Kids just need one adult to connect with and I am hoping to present them with many opportunities for that,” she said.

In addition, Bridge Volunteering is directed by a board of three. “As a teacher, I had no idea how to run a ‘business.’ I chose a board member in the business world to navigate me through. I also chose members who have been involved in philanthropic roles in the past to give me insight into what things I need to focus on,” she said of the board selections.

Besides the board, Bridge Volunteering will partner with and receive input from high school employees, community members parents and students.

“Personally, I think the answer to all problems is to get out and do something for someone else,” Andler stated.

Studies on volunteering have shown that it can reduce stress angry and depression. Volunteers are also increases happiness, self-confidence and sense of purpose.

“Volunteering has been scientifically proven to do many things including combatting depression and counteracting stress and anxiety. Volunteering in teens gives them a sense of purpose and passion and makes them feel good about helping other people,” said Andler.

This is not the first time Andler has started a volunteer program. In high school she began Special Friends, a nationally recognized organization that pairs special needs kids with teen mentors to help foster relationships. 

Come out to the Bridge Volunteering Hub on Aug. 29 from 3-8 p.m., 1918 Parmenter St., for an open house and to learn more about the program. 

For more information on the organization, visit their Facebook page.

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