Throughout your graduate degree at Queen’s, you may find yourself only interacting with your current cohort, your friends in your lab, students you see as a Teaching Assistant. It’s easy to get stuck in the “Queen’s bubble” and assume that your Queen’s experience can more widely summarize the “Kingston experience”. It can be especially easy if you live right near campus and never have to venture outside of the downtown area, because everything you need is in this really convenient area south of Princess Street. The longer I’ve lived in Kingston, however, the more I’ve been able to get to know about the dynamic organizations in our community, and the exciting opportunities out there for graduate students to get involved outside of Queen’s.
Below are some suggestions of ways to get involved in the Kingston community throughout your graduate career – many of these groups I’ve been involved with personally and others I haven’t been but wish I had been! I’m not including these opportunities as resume builders, but because these organizations or experiences have sincerely impacted and inspired me and have been incredible skill-building opportunities that will teach you so much. Take a look and see if any appeal to you, and comment if there are other opportunities you can think of that you’d like to share!
Teach a class at the Seniors Association Kingston Region
Talk about getting out of the “Queen’s Bubble”! This opportunity is located in the little village of Portsmouth on the west of Kingston (just passed the large Penitentiary on the water). This organization brings together some very active and enthusiastic seniors looking for a sense of community and often to continue learning and building new skills. There are more than 700 volunteers working with the organization in various ways, whether you want to be a bingo ambassador, crafters, exercise instructors and fundraising committee members. Reach out to them and see how your skills could be best utilized. Several years ago, I was able to teach a course on my research topic – Victorian art! It was such a fun way to get to share my passion for my research topic with the community and the questions and feedback I received shaped my research as well! Click here for more information.
Meet some like-minded young professionals and join the United Way’s Next Gen
The United Way does incredible work in the Kingston community here raising money for a number of great local organizations. Their Next Gen group is for young professionals, future leaders and those who want to get more involved in their community – they would love to have more Queen’s graduate students getting involved! Being a part of their group means they’ll keep you in the loop about events in the community you should know about, as well as running a number of their own including their amazing charity masquerade they run each year. The group hopes to bring together young philanthropists in Kingston so you can get to know each other through their networking events while also getting to know some of the local places you can get more involved with, like with their Seeing is Believing Tour where you board a bus and go to numerous local agencies to see where the donations to the United Way end up and how they’re used (for example getting a tour of the Kingston Youth Shelter). Click here for more information.
Pathways to Education is a Canada-wide organization that is located in low-income communities and is aimed to break the cycle of poverty through education. In Kingston, Pathways to Education is located at the Kingston Community Health Centres building on Weller Avenue in northern Kingston, and they welcome volunteers to help tutor students after school certain days during the week for subjects ranging from Math, English, Science, Geography to Social Sciences. They also offer group mentoring at some locations, and other ways to get involved so please reach out and see how you can get involved! Click here for more information.
Make a difference in a student’s life with Youth Diversion
Youth Diversion helps marginalized youth and youth at risk by offering intervention and prevention services. Some of the services you can become involved with include the C.H.A.N.C.E. Mentoring Program where you are matched with youth between t he ages of 11 and 17 and guide them to reach their goals. It’s a 2 hour a week commitment for a total of 6 months. Another program they run is SNAP (School and non-academic Program) which gives academic and non-academic support to youth between 9-17 who have been suspended from school. Each of these opportunities come with training sessions so that you’re prepared and have a better idea of what’s expected of you. Click here for more information.
Help with an on-campus confidential and non-judgmental food service with the AMS Food Bank
Though I’ve been trying to add in opportunities outside of Queen’s, I wanted to mention this one briefly as I feel like not enough graduate students know about the AMS Food Bank that they have access to on campus. This non-profit organization operates on donations and an opt-out fee from the AMS and the SGPS. You can donate to them or you can check out the types of food they offer (veggies, milk, meat, bread, canned food and more) on their website, but they also are always looking for help staffing the Food Bank. Reach out to find out more about how you can get involved! Click here for more information.
If you want to do help make sure that those in our wider Kingston community also have access to meals, also consider looking into working with the following great organizations:
- Martha’s Table – link
- Lunch by George at the St. George’s Cathedral – link
- St. Vincent de Paul Society – link
There are so many, it’s really hard to just limit it to a few for a blog post. There’s really something for everyone out there, whether you want a hands on opportunity or you’d like to help an organization by joining their board. All of these are rewarding, and will teach you a lot about the community and yourself. I sincerely suggest taking a look at the volunteer database on the United Way Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington website as they have compiled a number of great opportunities there – https://www.unitedwaykfla.ca/volunteer-centre/.