Volunteering seems to be in Imogen Pohl’s blood. At the age of four, she joined Girl Guides, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, who, as a Girl Guide in England, had met Lady Baden-Powell, a key figure in the Girl Guide movement.
Now, as a second-year University of Lethbridge student, she’s still volunteering with the organization — and numerous others. Her passion for and commitment to volunteering has put her in very esteemed company as one of six Albertans to win a 2017 Stars of Alberta Volunteer Award.
Pohl received the award on Dec. 5 in Edmonton at a ceremony where Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell and Ricardo Miranda, Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, handed out the awards.
“This award is for all of Alberta so I thought it would go to someone in Edmonton or Calgary who’s done something bigger,” says Pohl. “When I got the letter from the Honourable Ricardo Miranda, I was really excited. It was really neat meeting the Lt.-Gov.; she’s super cool.”
Pohl’s volunteering journey began in Grande Prairie, where she found Girl Guides gave her a safe place to explore all kinds of activities from camping to astrology.
“I did all of the levels and the badges and the top section awards,” she says. “When I was nine, I started being a ‘girl assistant’ and I worked with the Sparks (ages five and six). I continued working with Sparks and, when I was 18, I became a head guider for a group of Sparks.”
Pohl’s involvement in Girl Guides led to additional volunteer opportunities. She has worked on several international projects such as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, Stop the Violence and Girl Effect, which gave her the chance to travel to Switzerland, England and Mexico. Through Guides, she also volunteers in the community by selling poppies for the Lethbridge Legion and packing Christmas hampers with the Lethbridge Food Bank. As a U of L student, she volunteers as a member of the Kappa Beta Gamma sorority. Pohl says volunteering is a way for her to pay it forward.
“As a child, there were hundreds and hundreds of hours put into developing me as a person, so I volunteer as a way of starting to put in my hours so I can help develop the kids who are going to be the next volunteers,” she says. “It’s very valuable to me because I get to see the results.”
At the U of L, Pohl is pursuing an undergraduate degree with a double major in neuroscience and psychology. She hopes to become a clinical psychologist and has her eyes set on furthering her studies at the University of Calgary.
“My family has been affected by schizophrenia. Lots of people study how the brain works but I don’t feel like there are enough people studying how the brain doesn’t work,” she says. “I feel that if we can understand how the brain isn’t working correctly then we can easily go back and say what should be going on.”
Six provincial Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards are presented annually in connection with International Volunteer Day, a global initiative established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. Two awards in each category — youth, adult and senior — are presented.