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Celebrating Students’ Community Action

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The Community Action Celebration Evening for Year 12 annually recognises the enormous contribution that Bolton School students make to the wider Bolton community through their volunteering efforts. The evening began with a drinks reception in the Riley Sixth Form Centre’s Leverhulme Suite before moving to the Arts Centre.

Mr Chilton, the Boys’ Division Assistant Head of Sixth Form, welcomed everyone and pointed out that, on the same day, a team of Sixth Form students had been in London for the national final of the Goldsmiths’ Company Community Engagement Awards, where they showcased the School’s strong links with the local community and extensive volunteering activities. This follows on from Bolton School’s receipt of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2017 as an acknowledgement of pupil and staff community action involvement. Mr Chilton reminded the assembled audience that, in continuing Lord Leverhulme’s legacy of giving back, pupils today gain a better understanding of the world around them as well as developing valuable skills.

He then handed over to six Year 12 students so that they could share their volunteering experiences.

Rachel Care started volunteering in Year 9 as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award. She chose to help at Bushell House Residential Care Home, where she was involved with running the bingo. She described her time as beneficial not only to the residents but also to her.

Through her work with Bolton Library and Museum Service, Aleena Hussain became involved with ‘Hope Streets’, an initiative across the North West which hopes to encourage young people to engage with local heritage. She said that over the past three years she has become part of the driving force behind the project and gained the confidence to take on any opportunity.

Thomas Whitehead spoke about his involvement with World Challenge, which took him to India, and his work helping a veterans’ charity to put on a 1940s weekend on the East Lancashire Railway. He spoke of his pride in the work completed and the vast skills set he has developed as a result.

Amelia Doherty chose to take part in NSC, or National Citizen Service, following a presentation given to the whole of Year 11. She described her experience as “the best time” and talked about her group’s decision to create a bug hotel in Moss Bank Park as their community project and how this benefitted the area.

Yusef Patel gave an honest account of his changing attitude towards volunteering, from a chore to something he consistently looks forward to each week. His presentation focused on his work with Max Potential Respite Care Home for disabled adults, which has developed from admin tasks to working more with the service users and increased his confidence and abilities through this.

Sharon Daniel said that at the start of Year 12 she was excited but apprehensive to take on more volunteering. She decided to teach a group of children how to play musical instruments and described some of the challenges she faced as overcame as part of this project, which culminated in a successful performance of six songs and led to her developing confidence, patience and interpersonal skills.

Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards were then presented to students by the evening’s guest speaker, Chairman of Governors Mr Michael Griffiths, and the two Heads of Sixth Form, Mr Williams and Mrs Winder. This year, students provided 10,637 hours of voluntary service, with 86% of Year 12 completing more than 20 hours of volunteering. A total of 29 students received Gold Awards for logging more than 100 hours. Five students achieved over 200 hours of volunteering across the year, and Sharon Daniel completed an incredible 456 hours.

Once students had received their Awards, Mr Griffiths took the podium to deliver a thoughtful address.

He began with a comment he recently heard from a Year 11 student, “The whole community gains from volunteering.” His earliest experience of volunteering as an 11-year-old wolf cub (now known as cub scouts) demonstrated this well. He helped to clear an orchard of apple trees and, though the work was harder than expected in early December, he remembers that there were benefits all round: the scouts had fun, the farmer had his field cleared, and the local elderly residents received firewood. He commented that growing up in the 1950s there was a strong community spirit, from his parents who were involved in volunteering to the wolf cub promise to help others. He therefore assumed that volunteering was something that everyone does, and this belief was confirmed when he arrived at Bolton School as a pupil.

He recently looked back at reports held the School Archives, another example of voluntary work carried out by Governor Eric Fairweather, and pointed out that there is a record going back to 1893 of Girls’ Division pupils helping with the Bolton Girls’ Recreation Club, which later became part of Bolton Lads and Girls’ Club (BLGC), and the Boys’ Division magazines are littered with frequent references to that same organisation. He said, “The club is now celebrating its 130th anniversary and, it seems, Bolton School has been helping in some way for pretty much all of its existence.”

Mr Griffiths went on to explain that volunteering has continued throughout his adult life, saying: “Once you have ‘the bug’ you never leave it.”

He shared some anecdotes from a year with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) immediately after leaving school: a challenging and exciting experience which took him to the Solomon Islands. He said that VSO was and is still a great opportunity for voluntary work to make a real difference, which he would recommend. After his return to the UK, he became the Scout District Commissioner in the early 1980s and this led, in 1986, to him becoming a Governor of Bolton School. 33 years later, and after being appointed Chairman of Governors in 2007, he is still here, though he will retire from the post at the end of 2019. In more recent times, he has returned to the Solomon Islands to help with a project attempting to eradicate malaria.

He said that a theme in his volunteering activities has been to return to the communities he was involved with in his youth to give back, enabling the next generation to thrive. He concluded that from a personal view, he has found volunteering to be enjoyable and satisfying, and hopes that he has made a positive impact.

Finally, he commented that the young people attending the Celebration have already made a difference for good in their local communities, and encouraged them to continue to do so.

Girls’ Division Headmistress Sue Hincks brought the event to a close with further congratulations to all of the students who received awards and thanked those members of staff who were involved with assisted them in achieving their volunteering goals.

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