by Michelle Brooks | staff writer
As senior Caroline LaChance counts up the amount of time she spent volunteering at various places within the community, she makes sure everything is accounted for on her application form. As April comes to a close, LaChance and other students who have earned a PVSA award prepare to get recognized for their contributions to their community.
“The PVSA is basically just when you enter in your service hours for how many [hours] you work outside of school, [and/or] inside of school, and it goes through the system. They [the PVSA committee] check all your hours and then at the end of the year you get, it’s called the PVSA award,” LaChance said. ”And you can get a silver, bronze, or gold. I get the gold. I’ve gotten the gold for over four years now.”
The Presidential Volunteer Service Award isn’t an award granted to the students from the local community, but is sent all the way from the nation’s capital.
“It recognizes students who provide volunteer service in their school, in their community, [and/or] in their church within a full calendar year, and the award comes from the White House in Washington, D.C.,” English teacher Robin Philbrick said. “And it looks great on a resume.”
There are several extracurricular activities that can count towards a student’s overall amount of volunteer hours, such as babysitting or helping out in the community.
“I do a lot of teaching lessons for music and stuff like that. I babysit pre-schoolers at different schools, I reconstruct rooms at other high schools; a lot of fun stuff. But mainly just helping younger people in middle schools and elementary schools would mean anything,” LaChance said.
The award consists of a certificate, a pin, a letter from the President of the United States, and an extra boost to your college application.
“But the usefulness beyond that is when you’re putting together your college resume, and you can say that you have a volunteer service award from the President of the United States,” Philbrick said. “That’s pretty impressive. And then, of course, there’s the value of the community service and volunteering. That ‘pat on the back’ for yourself of that feel good kind of a thing.”
In addition to the silver, bronze, and gold categories, this award can also be given to students in various age groups.
“In fact you can earn a PVSA as young as five years old. The kids category is 5 to 10. And then we combine our teens to freshman and sophomores, because otherwise we’d have to monitor when their birthday is and everybody has a different birthday. So we allow the teen level for freshman and sophomores and then the young adult level is juniors and seniors,” Philbrick said.
For each of the age groups, the volunteer hours are then weighed to determine the type of award the recipient gets.
“Depending on which category you’re in, its, of course for the teens it’s less hours but for the upperclassmen it’s many, many more hours,” Philbrick said. “So starting with 100 for bronze up to 250 for a gold.”
Even though there are different categories of the PVSA award, just having this award may help a student stand out amongst their peers when it comes time to apply for college, according to Philbrick.
“Preference, yes. Picked first, maybe. For me, colleges do look at those kinds of things. And when you have…two candidates who are similar, and one has a reward from the President of the United States for their volunteer service, I would say that it definitely would set you apart,” Philbrick said.
As award recipients are announced and plans for the recognition ceremony are underway, the number of students who are receiving this award this year is actually the highest it has ever been.
“We’ve already finished for this year  because the hours start May 1st of this year and they go through April 30th of next year. And there’s certain minimum requirements [and] maximum requirements for each level. Gold, silver, bronze,” Philbrick said. ”And this year our recognition ceremony is on April 28 – that’s a Thursday night at 7 o’clock. It’s in the auditorium and this year we have, right now, 167 recipients, which is an all time high for us and always the largest in the district.”
Along with the national recognition, just being able to volunteer her time and energy over the past four years is something LaChance seems to enjoy doing.
“Volunteering has definitely…I don’t know, it just makes me feel like a better person to help other people; to be selfless. It’s nice,” LaChance said.