Some of the best and the brightest teenage minds have gathered at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., again this summer to take part in the annual SHAD program.

The students, who have completed grades 10 to 12, are completing a series of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematical projects and then learning how to apply their findings to real-life policy and business decisions.

Federal minister of labour and city MP Patty Hajdu spoke to the group Wednesday night about a new volunteer youth service initiative the government wants to promote that will connect young people with opportunities to share their passions and help their communities.

But committing to a job where you don't get paid can be a dilemma for some young people, who may need to spend their free time earning money to pay for their post-secondary education.

Volunteering offers rewards other than money

However, volunteering has its own rewards, said Victoria Iannotti, a grade 12 graduate from College de Bois de Boulogne in Montreal, and one of the SHAD participants in Thunder Bay.

"One of the things we would like to show and tell people is that there are a lot of benefits other than money that come with work and by volunteering you can have a big variety of options and opportunities that can bring a lot of value and you can learn a lot of different lessons through that, so there's lots of benefits more than the financial," she said.

The students formed teams and then had just 20 minutes to develop a marketing plan under the youth service theme and then had to pitch that to a panel of judges, explained Timothy Jackson, the president of SHAD.

"I thought they did an incredible job," he said, describing pitches which ranged from using social media which would alert young people about volunteering opportunities to an accreditation system which would show schools and potential employers the students' range of volunteer experiences.

'Incredibly talented' SHAD students pitch ideas

"It shows how incredibly talented they are," he said.

Iannotti said it was an inspirational experience to put what she's learning at SHAD into practice by working on a promotion plan for the new volunteer program.

"In school we have projects and we have tasks but they're very small, they're within the boundaries of our schools and our homes, but now we have someone who has a big influence in our communities who wants help from us, who values our opinions and who is pushing us think further and to come up with things that some of us would have thought we couldn't before," she said.

It is possible that some of the suggestions from the SHAD participants at Lakehead will be part of the national marketing campaign, said Jackson.

The SHAD program wraps up on Friday July 28. 

To hear the CBC Superior Morning interview about SHAD at Lakehead University, click here.