Sam Chu greets guests, handles cash and takes the occasional walkabout at the Maritime Museum of B.C.
Two years ago, the Lambrick Park secondary student stumbled into a volunteer gig at the Bastion Square destination simply because it sounded interesting. Now he’s the longest-serving youth volunteer, a group that tends to ebb and flow more than the veterans.
“I saw a newspaper ad and I thought it was interesting so I handed in my resumé,” he says.
In the time he’s been at the museum, he’s worked his way up to a position rarely offered to teens because of the heavy responsibility that comes with it.
“Sam evolved into (working in) the visitor centre,” says Jillan Valpy, visitor services and volunteer co-ordinator. “He’s worked in a lot of different areas of the museum.”
Chu started behind-the-scenes alongside the curator as an assistant, then worked with the programs co-ordinator developing activities for kids. Then Valpy suffered a shortage in volunteers available to man the visitors centre and admissions area, a very public and demanding job.
“That’s a big role,” Valpy says. “For a high school student it’s a big responsibility. You be the tourist guide, because people want to know how to get around Victoria.”
But his calm thoughtfulness proved perfect for the position, and Chu has proven himself capable.
“He’s very dutiful and effective, but he does it in a subtle, quiet way, and people appreciate that,” Valpy says. “He’s reliable, dedicated and committed.”
His professional approach is a “very rare quality for a person of his age,” the volunteer co-ordinator adds.
“He takes it very seriously. He’s made a commitment to be a volunteer at the museum and he treats it like it’s a job.” Next month, Chu will reach the two-year mark as Maritime Museum volunteer.
Perhaps inspired by his work in the Greater Victoria community, this year Chu felt a need to also give back to his school community. Already strong on the academic front, Chu added participating in student council to his workload.
“For Grade 12, I realized I should probably be more involved in school. It’s never too late,” he says. “I’ve been a lot more involved, and I think it’s a responsibility of a student to be active in their school, to give back.”
He’s an active member of the school’s leadership program, heading up courses or groups on larger projects.
“Right now we’re in the process of planning a spring fair for the community,” he says.
In November, he and classmate Eric Mar organized a school talent show that raised $3,000 to go to school-related activities, such as sports team travel or field trips that some students can’t afford. At Christmas, he could be found participating in a food drive for the Mustard Seed Food Bank, handing out flyers to homes in his neighbourhood and returning later to collect donations of food and clothing.
“(Chu is) one of those really organized, thoughtful kids. He does everything without a whole bunch of fanfare,” said Lambrick vice-principal Joan Thain. “He’s not boisterous and loud and stand-out, but if you need a job done and want it done thoroughly he’s the one.”
Valpy holds Chu to a similar standard. Despite his youthful age, the 17-year-old is a dedicated staffer and just as effective and smart as the veteran volunteers.
“He’s become very knowledgeable about the museum and the exhibits and he’s able to talk to people about the exhibits,” Valpy says. “He’s interested in history. He does a little bit of walking around the museum and chatting with people.”
Chu plans to spend time at the Maritime Museum again this summer, helping guide locals and tourists from the visitor’s centre or operating the historic birdcage elevator.
“Sam has always been really good about that,” Valpy says. “He’s always willing and capable to just roll up his sleeves and help out wherever he’s needed.”
An ear for music
Sam Chu is also an accomplished musician. He recently completed his Grade 8 piano and theory requirements and is now working on Grade 9.
“He has always been a respectful, intelligent and dedicated student with a talent for music,” says his piano teacher, Jenny Anderson. “(He’s) an absolute pleasure to teach.”
Chu has performed in numerous recitals and completed many piano and theory exams. More than a decade into his piano passion, he enjoys jamming with friends and playing during the semi-annual concert at school.
“I like music, making the music and listening to it,” he says.