Monthly Archives: June 2013

Changing the World with YVC and AmeriCorps

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AmeriCorps members serving with YVC in 1994–the inaugural year of AmeriCorps.

After a three year-hiatus from AmeriCorps funding, all of us here at YVC are thrilled to announce that YVC was awarded a National Direct AmeriCorps grant that will enable us to provide AmeriCorps members to YVC Affiliates throughout the country. YVC has had a long and fruitful history with AmeriCorps as a way to enable YVC programs to reach out to even more youth, and thousands of Youth Volunteers and hundreds of AmeriCorps members can tell those stories.

I’m one of those former members who stumbled upon YVC through AmeriCorps four years ago. Serving a year as an AmeriCorps member as an alternative to entering the job market in the midst of a recession seemed like a great idea. I would get the opportunity to make a difference in my community, gain practical job skills, explore a career path, and delay my entry into the highly competitive job market for a year.

AmeriCorps members serving as YVC Team Leaders in 1997.

I had never heard of YVC, but I ended up moving halfway across the country to serve as an AmeriCorps member for YVC of Greater Kansas City. It only took a little background research and a few phone conversations for me to see that this organization had the potential to change the world, and I wanted to be part of it.

I served alongside three other AmeriCorps members as a Team Leader planning and supervising projects with YVCKC. I remember being shocked at the amount of responsibility and freedom that I had as an AmeriCorps member. Our Program Director empowered us to run as much of the program as possible, encouraging us to bring up new ideas that would help YVCKC connect even more youth to service, and nearly always, he then empowered us to run with those ideas. We weren’t at the bottom of the totem pole—we were the hands and feet of the organization.

I also noticed quickly that without the four of us AmeriCorps members, the YVCKC program wouldn’t be able to offer volunteer opportunities to nearly as many youth. The two staff members were busy seeking funding for the program, marketing the organization and focusing on the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit. The four of us AmeriCorps members were the ones actually planning and supervising all of the projects, developing relationships with Youth Volunteers, and ensuring that YVC was offering these youth the opportunity to volunteer in a transformative way.

Lacey Helmig (far right) with two of her fellow AmeriCorps members and YVCKC Team Leaders along with the YVCKC staff.

I built relationships with Youth Volunteers as someone just a few years older than them, and I never got tired of hearing how my role in their lives helped shape their future. Many of these youth even aspired to become AmeriCorps members themselves. If I was only one AmeriCorps member, and I felt that my year of service with YVC changed so many youth’s lives, I could only imagine how YVC was making a difference on a national scale.

So as YVC celebrates a National Direct AmeriCorps grant for the first time in three years, we’re also celebrating the hundreds of AmeriCorps members who have served with YVC in the past and the thousands of Youth Volunteers who were able to volunteer because of the support of these AmeriCorps members. Even more so, we’re celebrating the many more youth who will be exposed life-changing service through YVC with the support of AmeriCorps members.

Lacey Helmig is the Communications and Media Coordinator for YVC. She began with YVC as an AmeriCorps member in 2009, where she learned from Youth Volunteers the most efficient way to mulch a nature center trail, how to play Ninja, and the undeniable fact that youth can change the world.

Meet Zeeyaan Somani

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Congratulations to Zeeyaan Somani, the first-ever recipient of the Don and Jean Sloan Scholarship! Zeeyaan has volunteered nearly 500 hours with YVC of Calgary on top of being involved in a ton of school and extracurricular activities. She’ll be pursuing a degree in nursing beginning this fall, and she hopes to use her nursing skills to serve both locally and abroad.

But don’t take it from us—meet Zeeyaan, and see how awesome she is for yourself!

How did you get started volunteering with YVC?

My sister, who’s four years older than me, had been serving with YVC quite a while. One day she asked if she could bring her little sister, and that was the first time I volunteered with YVC. I started doing summer projects before I was technically allowed—when I was 10 or 11 years old. Volunteering helped me expand my horizons, and I learned quite a bit by having the opportunity to help in different areas and getting to know my city better.

What influence would you say YVC has had on your life?

I’ve grown so much since I started volunteering. The first time I entered the Youth Central office, I was a quiet, timid adolescent. I was so unsure of what I wanted to do in the future and who I was as an individual. As I continued to volunteer, I became more comfortable with myself and developed a new sense of confidence in myself.

I joined the Youth Volunteer Corps Steering Committee the summer before grade eight, stayed on the committee for the school year, and volunteered the next summer as well. While being on the committee, I was surrounded by all of these other leaders who inspired me to contribute more to my community. From a young age, I began understanding how to work with a team and become a leader. Over the years I’ve developed those traits through volunteering with YVC.

Why do you think it’s important to volunteer?

I think it’s important to give back mainly because it not only helps other individuals in the community, but provides a sense of personal satisfaction that can’t be attained in any other way. At the end of the day when I come home from a volunteer project and reflect on the difference I’ve made, I feel this strong sense of happiness inside.

How will you continue serving in the future?

Because of the Youth Volunteer Corps, I’ve been inspired to dedicate my career to helping those here in Calgary and abroad. I’m planning to go into nursing and work locally for a couple years before working abroad. I want to utilize my experiences and knowledge to help those in developing nations. I just see myself dedicating my whole career to bettering the lives of others and feeling that I’ve made an impact in their lives.

26 Years Ago

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26 years ago this week, 53 youth embarked on the very first YVC projects ever. They came from all over the Kansas City metro area and met up at six different project sites throughout the city. The youth were from more than a dozen different high schools, both public and private.  Even though they showed up not knowing each other, they left united as one team of youth who changed just a little bit of the world together. They left as the very first YVC Youth Volunteers.

 

Up until that moment, YVC was just a great idea in the mind of a 24 year-old recent college graduate, David Battey. He had a dream and believed that it could work—it might even change the world. But it wasn’t until that first day of actual YVC projects that he could see if this new idea could actually take off. On June 8, 1987, he called volunteer after volunteer to see what they thought of their first day of serving with YVC. It was a resounding success.

By the end of that first summer, a total of 68 youth served with YVC. When they said goodbye to the kids they’d been working with at the low-income daycare and packed up the last of the tools from the Habitat for Humanity build site, little did they know that they were the first of more than 270,000 youth who would serve with YVC over the next 26 years.

The following year, nearly twice as many youth served with YVC in Kansas City, and just a year after that, in 1989, a second YVC was launched in Spartanburg, South Carolina—the first of what would be many different YVC Affiliates.

26 years and more than 4 million volunteer hours later, youth are still heading out in their communities this summer to change the world through a YVC project. Those first 53 youth blazed the trail for thousands of youth to serve in 28 different communities this summer, from Corvallis, Oregon to Macon, Georgia.

On this 26th anniversary, we want you to celebrate all that you’ve done through YVC. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your commitment to making a difference in your community. Thank you for paving the way for even more Youth Volunteers in the coming years. Happy 26th anniversary to every YVC volunteer!

“I count myself fortunate to have been a YVC volunteer in the summer of 1987— its inaugural year.  The experience of working with underprivileged youth in a housing complex in Wyandotte County provided invaluable lessons that are memorable and still relevant to me today… I have never had a more fulfilling volunteer experience.” Rachel, YVC volunteer summer 1987

Youth Volunteer Corps, 1025 Jefferson St., Kansas City, MO 64105

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