This week was National Volunteer Week, and it is important that, in addition to ensuring that St. Clement’s continues to highlight the importance of volunteerism, we articulate how the experience of volunteering contributes to our mission of developing outstanding women who are intellectually curious, courageous and compassionate. Volunteering is a necessary and important way to effect change, but is also a meaningful experience that develops life skills.
On Tuesday morning, we heard from our St. Clement’s School Community Heads and students who reflected on the impact of their volunteer experiences. It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the many activities in which our girls are involved.
On Friday morning, we were honoured to have Julia Foster ’65, a St. Clement’s School Alumnae Gold Award Winner, recipient of the Order of Canada, model volunteer, and successful businesswoman and mother, as our speaker at our Volunteer Assembly. Julia’s curriculum vitae is an impressive one that reflects work in business and marketing, and also significant board work, including Chair of organizations such as the Stratford Festival, the National Arts Centre and, most recently, York University, where she was the first female Chair of the Board. In 2014, Julia was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Powerful Women by The Women’s Executive Network.
Julia’s message to our community was an important one. While she thoughtfully mentioned many of the volunteer initiatives in which our girls are involved and celebrated them, Julia pointed out that beyond volunteering’s being the right thing to do, there are other remarkable benefits to supporting and assisting others. Julia impressed upon all of us to say yes to as many opportunities as possible, even if they do not appear to perfectly match our skills and comfort, for, in doing so, we are afforded opportunities for challenge, growth and connection. Julia explained that her volunteer work over the years has ultimately informed her success in business and as a leader because she was able to contribute to causes and events about which she was passionate, while also gaining great experience in working with people, organizing events and facilitating change.
This week has reminded me of our School’s opportunity to highlight the dual benefit of volunteerism: we can contribute to effecting change for the better while growing and learning along the way.