By Monica Boyer
One of the most important parts of The Outdoor Campus is our volunteer program. We have over two hundred people that give their time to us. As of July 24, our volunteers have served 91,746 hours at The Outdoor Campus. As the Volunteered Coordinator Assistant Intern, I am always so amazed at how committed our volunteers are. They don’t mind getting their hands covered in dirt or putting their muscles to the test by carrying kayaks and canoes. Our volunteers have given so much to us that I wondered: what keeps them coming back?
- Getting people involved in the outdoors
One of our Volunteer Interview questions is, “What made you want to volunteer at The Outdoor Campus?” One of my favorite answers to this question is when the new volunteer talks about how much they love the outdoors and how they want other people to love it too. Our volunteers get to help kids discover new interests and develop lifelong skills.
- Paying it forward
Many of our volunteers took classes at TOC before they entered our volunteer program. As former class participants, they remember looking up to the volunteers and being in awe of how much they knew about the outdoors. When they volunteer for classes they can return the favor by helping the kids, just as they were helped when they were the ones participating in class.
- Meeting new people
As a volunteer, you meet other volunteers, staff members, visitors and other people from the community. Just the other day, a volunteer was telling me about how she’d met a family from Hawaii that wanted to know all about South Dakota wildlife. Throughout the year, we have volunteer appreciation parties where the volunteers get recognized for their service and get to spend time with their fellow volunteers. It is always nice to see the volunteers making new friends and bonding over their love for the outdoors.
- Exciting Opportunities
Volunteers can move on to become Volunteer Instructors or Interns. Volunteer Instructors are current volunteers that teach their own classes. Once a volunteer is a sophomore in college they can apply to be a Naturalist Intern, Horticultural Intern, Outreach Naturalist Intern, or Volunteer Coordinator Assistant Intern. Becoming an Intern is a great way to continue your service to TOC, and to get an education and paycheck while doing it!
- Having fun!
Volunteering at TOC always leads to fun! Our volunteers and staff always find a way to enjoy themselves. What better way than to spend your summer than outdoors with our amazing staff and volunteers. Some of our volunteer’s favorite class include fishing, kayaking and snow skiing. Also, there is always something to munch on in the breakroom. Our volunteers and moms love to give us food! Yummy!
With all these reason to keep returning to TOC, it’s no surprise that some of our volunteers have been with us since we opened in 1997. Each month we get new volunteers that are enthusiastic about donating their time to The Outdoor Campus. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, you can visit our website http://gfp.sd.gov/outdoor-learning/outdoor-campus/east/volunteers/default.aspx and click the “Apply Now” link.