By Tanara McLean,Edmonton Sun
There’s a new $1,000 incentive for post-secondary students to volunteer.
The government of Alberta, in collaboration with Volunteer Alberta, has launched the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP), that will award $1,000 bursaries to post-secondary students who complete internships with any non-profit or volunteer organization.
“This is so much more than painting fences or cleaning up parks,” says Karen Lynch, executive director of Volunteer Alberta.
In the first year, 500 bursaries will be distributed throughout the SCiP pilot project, with up to 1,000 available by year three of the program.
Eligible students include anyone enrolled in a certificate, diploma, undergraduate, graduate or PhD program at one of Alberta’s 26 public post-secondary institutions.
The idea for the program was hatched by Timothy Jobs, chair of the Alberta Student’ Executive Council (ASEC) and his fellow council members.
“The idea came from the clear need to find innovative solutions to increase the affordability of our post secondary system,” says Jobs, adding that this project will “create a program to reward students for using their skills to benefit their communities.”
For Kirsten Poon, 20, the bursary program isn’t so much an incentive, but a bonus for her years of volunteering. The University of Alberta science student is chair of the City of Edmonton youth council and a board director for Literacy Without Borders.
“I’m excited to be exposed to these new experiences,” says Poon. “Doing a meaningful internship in the non-profit sector and learning new things. Hopefully it will inspire a lot of students.”
Lynch says although students may be driven to choose organizations based on their future careers, they aren’t limited in which non-profit they intern with to earn the bursary.
“We know that the real world doesn’t fit into faculties and descriptions of their objectives,” says Lynch.
In Alberta there are 19,000 charities and non-profit organizations that support 2.5 million volunteers. Almost 58% of Albertans volunteer, according to information gathered by Volunteer Edmonton.
The bursary funds are distributed throughout the Advanced Education and Technology ministry.
Premier Ed Stelmach says the program is an opportunity for students to “sharpen their skills” while making a bit of money. Stelmach also called the program “innovative,” saying it will “put Alberta ahead in so many jurisdictions when it comes to this sector.”