April 10 marks Volunteer Appreciation Day, and St. Albert has many dedicated volunteers deserving of appreciation. Libby Thomas, a St. Albert resident and political science student at the University of Alberta, has been working in the community for more than 10 years.
The bulk of her volunteer work began when she was a student at Bellerose Composite High School. Thomas acted as a member of the student advisory board for the St. Albert Public school district.
“I felt Bellerose had given me so much that I wanted to give back and speak for students who may not have the opportunity to have their voices heard," Thomas said.
She also dedicated her time to the high school Rotary Club volunteer program Interact, and her school’s Leadership class.
Thomas went on to volunteer and eventually intern for the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing a culture of peace and human rights through education and community building.
When asked what drew her to volunteer work, Libby responded, “I think there’s an innate understanding that you’re bigger than yourself and you have a responsibility to your community.”
Thomas has been involved in a number of other volunteer projects through her time in post-secondary, most with a focus on poverty and human rights.
Libby now acts as one of nine senior ambassadors in the University of Alberta’s ambassador program. Duties of the program include leading tours of campus, assisting students with inquiries via the student centre, hosting events and volunteering for events in and around campus. They work closely with the Office of the Registrar, Office of the President and the Alumni Association.
Thomas noted the senior ambassador position is one of leadership within the program, as she is responsible for training and interviewing prospective ambassadors, as well as preparing and leading other initiatives.
Volunteers must dedicate a minimum of five hours a week, although events and meetings often add to their time commitment.
Thomas noted how her volunteer work has affected her confidence: “In almost every volunteer opportunity I’ve been a part of, I’ve been asked to present or voice my opinion. It’s helped my interpersonal skills, it’s a confidence booster. I can now speak in front of hundreds, even thousands of people confidently.”
Thomas encourages local students to get out and get involved, as we all have a responsibility to our community.