There came a time during the height of the pandemic that I wanted to do more. Not more work, just something for my soul. So, I pointed my browser to Charity Village and scrolled through the Volunteer Positions. I landed on an organization I’d never heard of: Student Links.
Community Living Ontario runs the program. It matches high school students who have an intellectual disability with an adult who’s an expert in their field of interest.
My mentee – I’ll call him W – is 16 and can mimic just about any voice on the planet. He can carry entire conversations in distinct voices. And we’ve developed a great rapport through our Zoom meetings. It makes me so happy when he comes to our meeting just bursting to try out a new voice for me. Part of our get-togethers involve me recording him. I send him back the audio and he can share it with friends and family. (I don’t have permission to share it here!)
Plus, I show him real job postings for the type of voice acting he can do. He sees the possibilities and his confidence has grown. We watch videos of our crazily talented actor friend Ed Kelly and voice actors like Eric Bauza, the Scarbernian who now voices Bugs Bunny.
I’ve had the chance to meet a few other mentors via Zoom. One is an excellent cook and she’s teaching her foodie mentee how to make great dishes. Another is a game designer who’s working with a young guy who wants to do what she does. They’re designing a game together, all online, one hour at a time. Meetings last somewhere between 30-60 minutes and can be weekly, biweekly, or monthly. There’s a lot of flexibility.
You Only Need One
So many successful people say just one person in their life told them, “you can do it.” Maybe it was a teacher or a relative. That’s what this program is about. Some of these kids are led to believe that their dreams aren’t realistic. Fortunately, W has a wonderful, supportive family that is 100% behind him. He’s lucky and he’s really a great kid.
We also have an amazing coordinator who brought us together. She attended our first few meetings to help me and W get to know each other. Now she keeps up with what we’re doing via email and cheers on W from the sidelines. W “drives the bus” so to speak. What he wants is what’s most important. The secret about volunteering is that you get so much more out of it than you give. At least, it feels that way. I get a squishy good feeling about spending time helping W grow and develop his skills.
Student Links is always looking for mentors. If you can demonstrate what you do via Zoom, you have skills that someone might want to learn. When mentorships went online, it opened up the program to matches from all across the province. W lives about 4 hours away. Meeting in person isn’t possible. Zoom makes this match work. And so does the enthusiasm of everyone involved with it.