Students volunteer in uncoventional ways


Zander Schwartz (11) stands with Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker.

Vernon Hills students are presented with a multitude of volunteer opportunities, ranging from Feed My Starving Children to Bernie’s Book Bank to tutoring students. Select local opportunities, however, are more sustained and long-term, catering to students’ future career aspirations or passions toward specific fields, like politics, law, and the medical field, also giving them first-hand experience.

Political Internships 

Students interested in learning more about the political process or who want to help change the political landscape may want to spend time volunteering on a political campaign. Options available to students include volunteering on a presidential, congressional, or state-level campaign, 7as well as county-level organizations of a specific party.

Zander Schwartz (11) spent his freshman year volunteering for J.B. Pritzker’s campaign leading up to the 2018 gubernatorial election. He assisted in cold-calling potential Democratic voters and informed them about the campaign he was volunteering for.

He decided he wanted to volunteer after meeting Pritzker at a candidate forum at Vernon Hills JSA, a club dedicated to student involvement in politics. Schwartz contacted the candidate and his team after the forum to begin his time on the campaign.

“I felt like I was more left leaning, and I really wanted exposure in the political world; I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me,” he said.

In the Lake County Area, Democratic candidates Andrew Wang and Brad Schneider, as well as Republican Valerie Ramierez Mukherjee, will be running for the District 10 seat in the U.S. House next year. These candidates will run campaigns prior to the 2020 election on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Local organizations of the Democratic and Republican parties include Tenth Dems and Chicago Young Republicans, respectively.

Teen Court Juror 

Lake County high schoolers interested in learning about the judicial process and participating as a teen juror might consider being involved in Nicasa Teen Court, which tries juvenile offenders with misdemeanor crimes. Students who live in Lake County, IL and are between the ages of 14-18 can volunteer to serve as jurors in the teen court. Bridget Leary (11) serves as a juror for the court, which meets once a month.

As part of the court, Leary said, volunteer jury members determine the sentences of the juvenile offenders.  As a jury member, teen volunteers will ask questions and come to a consensus with other teen jurors on the outcome of the case, much like a courtroom for adult cases.

The cases the Nicasa court takes are largely non-violent, ranging from retail theft to possession of illegal substances. The juveniles on trial choose to go to Teen Court instead of the juvenile system, Leary said.

“We try to give them more constructed sentences; we learn why they commit these offenses, and we give them the [sentence] applicable to it,” she said. She feels like Teen Court is a better alternative than sending the kids to juvenile detention.

For example, if someone has bad relationships with their parents, the teen jury would recommend that they take a class that gets them closer with their parents and restores the relationship, she said.

“In general, we try to not punish these kids but instead help them,” she said.

Leary has always been interested in the law system in general, and said that Teen Court is a way to use her interest to help others. Students interested in volunteering must maintain an average grade letter C in their classes and live in Lake County.

Volunteering at Condell Hospital 

Students interested in potentially going into the medical field or who want to learn about the inner-workings of a hospital may want to volunteer at a local hospital.

Bella Pappano (11) and Ben Thomas (11) volunteer their time at Condell Hospital in Libertyville.

Their jobs consist of working at the front desk, checking visitors in, and delivering newspapers or flowers to patients. Thomas said they help patients and visitors who need assistance. On rare occasions, they help transport patients to the Intensive Care Unit or ER.

“Once, I had to push someone to the ER in a wheelchair,” said Pappano. “It was exhilarating,” she said.

Volunteers work 4-hour shifts on weekends or weekdays, depending on student availability; high schoolers work with hired associates at Condell. Thomas works on Sundays, as schoolwork and extracurriculars take up his time on the weekdays.