Volunteer BEL engagement project a stand-out

5 Jul 2016
Catherine Hackett, Natalie Dennis, Nikki Seaton, Priscilla Lock, Mary Ma

Six University of Queensland Business, Economics and Law (BEL) Faculty students have been congratulated for helping non-profit organisation Community Mates connect high school students with volunteer opportunities.

Their project was part of the Community Engagement Program (CEP) which gives BEL students practical experience working with non-profit and community groups.

The Community Mates high school engagement team took out first prize in the 2016 Semester 1 program. Natalie Dennis, Catherine Hackett, Hannah Krieger, Priscilla Lock, Mary Ma and Nikki Seaton were recognised for their efforts.

Team leader and business student Nikki Seaton was also highly commended for her individual performance. 

Nikki said her team took on the challenge of establishing Community Mates chapters in four Brisbane high schools.

“We decided not to treat the project like an ordinary uni assignment and found the best approach was to be very hands-on,” she said.

“We presented at school assemblies, held sessions with teachers, ran workshops with students to explain the value of volunteering, and we even went to staff morning teas.”

By the end of the semester, the team had signed up over 200 new student volunteers and presented a business expansion plan on how to approach high schools across Queensland, implementing a “recipe for success” formula: Connection + Momentum + Action = Lifelong Volunteers.

Cass Vickers, Community Engagement Program coordinator, said the project was a stand-out because the team built their business plan from the ground up.  

“The team was tasked with setting up something brand new, with no existing contacts or networks in place,” she said.

“They had to overcome huge barriers to complete the project in a short amount of time and they weren’t afraid to get out of their comfort zones and get creative in order to make it work.

“This is what the Community Engagement Program is all about.”

According to Nikki, the experience was invaluable.

“I was drawn to the project because I wanted to make a difference in the community by doing real things for real people and seeing actual results, and I think that’s what we’ve achieved,” she said.

“We were really inspired by their CEO Chris Evans, who energised our team with his enthusiasm, commitment and passion for his work.”

On the back of their business plan, the team has been invited to work with Community Mates on their International Schools Expansion Committee (ISEC).

ISEC will work to build strong relationships with high schools and establish school chapters to encourage life-long volunteering with Community Mates– from school right through to retirement.

Other CEP project teams who worked with the Queensland Ballet, Orange Sky Laundry and Conexu were highly commended for their efforts. 

The award for outstanding individual achievement went to Georgia Roy, whose team partnered with the Queensland Ballet.

Find out more about the Community Engagement Program