The best of student volunteering celebrating with awards

FROM dog walking to scout leading, the tireless efforts of dozens of volunteer students from the University of Chester have been recognised in a celebration event.

Students, staff and charities came together to watch the event on the University’s YouTube channel, sharing their congratulations and pride at the achievements throughout the year, despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

The event recognised 97 University of Chester Volunteering (UCV) award winners. This award evidences a student’s commitment to volunteering, based on the hours they log, and also gives them an opportunity to record and reflect on their volunteer experience. The UCV Excellence Award, the highest award possible, was achieved by six inspirational students, who all logged more than 500 hours to their good causes.

Winners and runners-up were also announced in the following categories, which were designed to allow students, charities and University staff to celebrate outstanding volunteers:
•Student’s Choice Award – student volunteers are asked to nominate a charity which they believe has provided them with an outstanding volunteer experience, whether that be through development opportunities, a flexible approach, or the chance to make a difference to the organisation. This year’s winner was the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, nominated by student Anna Jackson, MA Clinical Counselling, from Chester, who praised its support, flexibility and inclusivity.
•University’s Choice Award – staff members at the University nominate students who have shown exceptional commitment to volunteering on University projects. This year’s winner was Alana Lukens, who is studying for a BA Social Work, from Oregon, USA, for a number of roles, including her work at the University’s Warrington site with the community hub. This is the home of the Chaplaincy, which provides a welcoming space for people of all faiths and none. Alana said: “I am honoured to be this year’s University Choice award recipient. Volunteering and outreach work have given me the opportunity to not only give my time, but to build meaningful and lasting relationships with incredible people and groups while learning so much! I am so very thankful to everyone that’s been a cheerleader for me and my endeavours.”
•Charity’s Choice Award – charity partners nominate students who have gone above and beyond in their volunteer role. This year’s winner was Zoology student Heather Stovold, from Wantage, Oxfordshire, for her volunteering as an Assistant Scout Leader with Grove Scout Group for three years, after having previously been a Young Leader for four years.
The four Project Leaders for the Chester Student Dog Walkers scheme shared their experiences with the online audience of how the programme was adapted to run during the pandemic.

Last year’s Volunteer of the Year Award Winner, Steph Taylor, joined as a guest speaker and talked all about the benefits she experienced from participating in volunteering during her time at University. Steph participated in a range of volunteer opportunities whilst at University, including at Cheshire Phoenix Basketball Club and on various University initiatives including Red T’s (a scheme that helps students around campus;) Student Ambassadors and Peer Mentoring. She ended her speech saying “a world of volunteers is a world that moves forward.”

This year’s Volunteer of the Year, Olivia White, was introduced by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eunice Simmons. Olivia, a Primary Education student from Manchester, volunteered as a project leader for the student-led project, Letters against Loneliness; as a Telephone Befriender with Changing Lives Together; a shop assistant with Oxfam and various other community and University initiatives. Olivia said: “I was shocked, but very grateful to win this year’s Volunteer of the Year Award, as I know that so many people have dedicated their time towards different projects and charities over the past year. I am very lucky to have had the volunteering opportunities throughout my University experience and the majority of them I had found through the volunteering website. I have gained skills I never thought I would be able to achieve and have done things I never thought I would have the opportunity to do while at University.”

Louise Morris, Volunteer Co-ordinator in Student Futures at the University, said: “The dedication of our students to helping others is truly amazing and not even the pandemic has been able to stop their positive impact.

“I am so happy to see so many of our University community come together to celebrate their remarkable achievements.”

Caption: Olivia White.

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