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Free course teaches volunteers to build strong communities

In its 16th year, the Step Up to Leadership program is a well-rounded, nine-week workshop intended to develop leadership skills for volunteers of any experience level
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(stock photos)

Halifax residents are being encouraged to sign up for the city’s Step Up to Leadership program.

Since 2005, the free course was created “by volunteers, for volunteers” to develop the necessary skills to contribute to the community through committed volunteerism.

“It’s intended for volunteers of any level or amount of experience,” explains community developer Darren Hirtle. “At the end of the program, any volunteer who takes it will have or should have all the basic skill they need for any aspect of volunteering.”

Offered twice a year, the complimentary course admits up to 20 people each season. This year, the nine-week course will cover a wide range of sessions on everything from creating a non-profit organization to instruction on understanding diversity. 

“We guide them through certain topics (and) people with experience can add in their experience and people who are new can absorb it or bring an alternative experience,” says Hirtle, noting collaboration is a key component of the course. “So it’s a lot of discussion and sharing.”

Starting September 21 with two-hour classes scheduled at Fairbanks Centre in Shubie Park, the Step Up to Leadership course is a comprehensive program that also covers such complicated areas as group dynamics, inclusion, conflict resolution and the legalities and practicalities of being a board member for a non-profit organization.

“The first half of the course centres around more personal insight and development,” adds Hirtle. “Then we jump into more practical things in second half of the course around effective communication, public speaking, running effective meetings, planning agendas, risk management, fundraising — things like that.”

For 16 years, the course has been a proven success. Hirtle says that those who have taken the course have gone on to work with such organizations as Halifax Search & Rescue and the Emergency Response Teams on the Eastern Shore. He also points to members of a particular Dartmouth community group called Take Action that went through the program. 

“There was a lot of success with them,” says Hirtle about the organization devoted to making community improvements in Dartmouth North. “They started doing community clean-ups where the first year they had 35 people, the next year they had 75 people and at the height of it they were getting 200 people.”

People can register for the course until the first day of class or until spaces are filled — whichever comes first. Hirtle insists that anyone interested in volunteering or community involvement will certainly not regret the decision.

“It’s important because some people won’t get involved (in volunteering) because they don’t feel they’re good enough or have the experience or knowledge to get involved,” says Hirtle. “Quite honestly, the first step is to just jump in (but) this course gives people the confidence to wade into volunteering.”

For more information on Step Up to Leadership, visit the website.

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