The Yorkville University Volunteerism Club and the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to connect B.C. students with volunteer opportunities at local businesses and not-for-profits.
“The City of New West gave $13,000 as a grant to our club and the Chamber of Commerce to help with training sessions so students can learn how to support local businesses with their digital marketing needs,” said Hancott, winner of the 2020 Distinguished YU Citizen Award, who’s now studying towards his Master of Education in Adult Education at Yorkville.
“To find out about the grant was very validating of the work that we’re doing, and it signified that there’s a wider need for this kind of work to be done. Hopefully our club can serve as a model for other campuses, other organizations, and other schools, even, to do this kind of work and connect these groups together.”
The initial idea to form the Volunteerism Club first came to Hancott when he began engaging with his diverse classmates enrolled in Yorkville’s BBA program specializing in Project Management – many of whom, he discovered, came to B.C. to study at Yorkville from countries all over the world.
“For international students, when they come to Canada, it’s very hard not only acclimatizing themselves to Canadian culture, but also in building connections and working and meeting people,” he explained.
“I also realized that there was a void in terms of club culture and giving students an opportunity to interact with other students in a constructive way that not only develops themselves professionally, but also in terms of their skillsets and the knowledge and information that they have, too.”
And that, Hancott said, was how the Yorkville University Volunteerism Club came to be formed as an outlet for students to engage with their fellow classmates, to develop leadership skills, and, perhaps most importantly, to give back to the larger community.
Enter the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce and its CEO Rnold Smith, who enthusiastically partnered up with the club after hearing about its mandate from Hancott’s father, Dr. Daren Hancott, Yorkville’s Campus Provost and Vice President Western Canada.
“The volunteer program in partnership with Yorkville University is designed to meet the needs of many people,” Smith explained, noting that it both teaches students valuable job skills, while also helping out small businesses and not-for-profits currently working at capacity due to COVID-19.
“Our idea is really about bringing those two things together – the need of the community with the enthusiasm of the students.”
One of the areas Smith said the Chamber of Commerce noticed the local business community struggling with most recently was in their efforts to pivot online in the midst of the pandemic.
“They need to be able to have digital exposure, but many businesses don’t have the expertise or the time to invest to make that happen,” he explained.
“Ultimately, our goal as a Chamber is to provide as much value as possible to the business community…and when we can match the energy, enthusiasm and newly acquired skills of youth with the people who need it, everybody wins.”
That sentiment was echoed by the elder Hancott, so called it the Yorkville University community’s “fiduciary duty” as both individuals and as an institution to help make the larger community a better place for everyone to live and work.
“We want students who are fully complete. They’re not just young, they’re not just academic, they’re not just students, they’re not just graduates – they’re actually contributing members of society and they want to do more, and we have to show them that they can do it. We have to help them do it,” he said.
“So, leadership, corporate social responsibility, community involvement, community engagement, and the diversity that we bring is an excellent opportunity for everyone.”
Moving forward, the younger Hancott – who continues on in his role as President of the Yorkville University Volunteerism Club – said more valuable learning opportunities for students will be forthcoming.
“There’s a bright future for this club and a lot of opportunities on the horizon, especially with the end of COVID coming,” he said, noting that senior students will be given more chances to mentor new students through internal workshops on topics ranging from leadership and life skills, to communication and good work habits.
“Even though it’s a club, I don’t look at it as a club – we’re more of a family. Volunteering brings people together.”