Interested in learning more about how you can give back AND earn community involvement hours for your diploma requirement? Let’s take a look at why the Ontario Ministry of Education has a volunteer component for its diploma and explore some ways that you can get involved with local organizations!

Why does Ontario have a community involvement requirement?

Ahmed Elgendy serves food to people in need and plays games with children from a local orphanage to help his community. Read Ahmed’s Student Spotlight here.

Beginning in 1999, the Ontario Ministry of Education implemented a policy requiring all secondary school students to complete a minimum of 40 hours of community involvement in order to earn the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). The purpose? Students are meant to gain an appreciation for their local communities, committees, and organizations, while learning how they can make a difference in the world with their own actions.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020-2022, the Ontario Ministry of Education provided flexible options for students who needed to earn their community involvement hours. At the principal’s discretion, students could earn hours through tasks normally performed in the home. For example, you could earn hours by helping an elderly relative with an errand or a sibling with homework. Additionally, students aged 14 years and older could include a maximum of 10 hours from paid employment. If students elected to include paid employment, they were required to complete a reflection exercise to demonstrate how they contributed meaningfully with their acts of service to their community. These options for earning community involvement hours will continue to be available during the 2022-23 school year for all students.

In light of Ontario’s lighter pandemic restrictions, the community involvement graduation requirement of 40 hours has been restored for all students graduating in the 2022-23 school year. The activities may be completed at any time during your high school years, including the summer prior to entering Grade 9.

To learn more about the Ontario Ministry of Education’s community involvement policy, visit Education in Ontario: Policy and Program Direction.

Cassidy Moulton earned her community involvement hours by helping to train a guide dog. Read Cassidy’s Student Spotlight here.

How can I fulfill my community involvement hours?

You should select activities that are appropriate for your age, interests, and abilities. Do not participate in any activities in which your health or safety might be compromised.
Be creative! Put your strengths and abilities to good use. Maybe you love sports? Use your athletic skills by volunteering your time as an assistant coach or referee for a local children’s team. Do you love being social? Use your communication skills by serving the less fortunate at a soup kitchen. Perhaps you love planning and organizing? Try joining your local service committee to help plan for upcoming events. It feels great to help others and leave a lasting impact on your community!

Here are some in-person volunteer options:

  • Fundraise for non-profit or charitable organizations such as hospitals
  • Coach or assist with sports at the community level
  • Help organize church activities like Sunday School, bazaars, dinners, etc.
  • Assist seniors with chores like yard work
  • Get involved with community committees, food banks, clothing drives, fairs, etc.
  • Participate in environment projects by collecting litter, planting trees, etc.

Need some virtual volunteer options? Check out volunteer matching platforms! Visit Volunteer Canada for more information on how you can find and apply to virtual volunteer opportunities. Keep in mind that online opportunities are not limited to Canadian organizations. You may complete volunteer activities with organizations across the world if they meet the standards of the community involvement requirement. We also highlight some virtual ways to earn community involvement hours on our home page in the learning environment, so keep an eye on your VHS account throughout the year!

Try planting trees with local conservation groups or nonprofit organizations like Jenyvette Hsia does. Read Jenyvette’s Student Spotlight here.

Before beginning any activity, you should ensure that the task that you have chosen is included in the list of approved activities. The “Notification of Planned Community Involvement Activities” form should be submitted to our Guidance Team for review prior to completion of the activity. A guidance advisor will then respond to let you know if the activity will meet the community involvement criteria. Once the activity is completed, record the details on the “Completion of Community Involvement Activities” form and submit it to the Guidance Team for final approval. The supervisor or sponsor of the activity is required to sign the form to confirm that the activities were completed.

Still have questions about earning your community involvement hours? Reach out to guidance1@vhs.ucourses.com at any time!

We can’t wait to see all the ways that our students give back this season and beyond!