Monthly Archives: July 2014

Top 10 Things to Do Within Walking Distance of the Summit

Posted by Youth Volunteer Corps on

Make the World Your Canvas Grey-Yellow

This year’s YVC Summit is located right in the heart of Kansas City on the Plaza. While the Summit weekend is jam-packed full of interesting workshops, networking opportunities and a comedy show as part of your Summit registration cost, you’ll also want to take time to explore the nearby area.

We made sure to keep Saturday evening free for you to explore. Here’s just a few options for a memorable evening:

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10. Go shopping in the Plaza neighborhood, where the Summit hotel is located. It’s the top shopping district in Kansas City, with more than 150 shops just blocks away.

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9. Visit the Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s just two blocks away and totally free!

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8. Walk around the Plaza and enjoy the Spanish architecture modeled after Kansas City’s sister city Seville, Spain. You can see 30+ statues, murals and tile mosaics as well as a half-sized replica of the Giralda Tower of Seville.

Jack Stack Barbeque, Kansas City

7. Eat at one of dozens of restaurants on the Plaza, ranging from inexpensive to fine dining.

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6. Tour the Kansas City Sculpture Park, right next to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the 22-acre park contains 30+ sculptures.

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5. Walk about a half mile to the north of the hotel to Westport, the oldest established community in Kansas City and a thriving dining, shopping and entertainment district.

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4. Go on a scavenger hunt for fountains. Known as the City of Fountains, only Rome has more fountains than Kansas City. Kansas City has more than 200 fountains, with dozens in the Plaza area, including the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain which is the most famous in the city.

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3. Visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, internationally recognized as one of the top art museums in the U.S. featuring more than 33,500 works of art from around the world and ranging from ancient to modern works. Not to mention, it’s also free!

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2. Check out the annual (free!) WaterFire event that’s happening on the Plaza the same weekend as the YVC Summit. This signature Kansas City event features beautiful floating bonfires traveling down Brush Creek.

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1. As interesting as the area around the Summit is, the most fun you’ll have all weekend is getting to know Youth Volunteers and YVC staff from all over the YVC network!

Camp Bennett and its Irreplaceable YVC Volunteers

Posted by Youth Volunteer Corps on

Muskogee - Summer 2014 Camp Bennett - 2When Camp Bennett, a camp for kids and adults with special needs, spent a single day without their usual 15 volunteers from YVC of Muskogee this summer, it was obvious that day was different. The campers weren’t nearly as active or engaged, and the counselors were exhausted by the end of that day.

Meanwhile, during the rest of the five weeks of camp this summer, YVC of Muskogee Youth Volunteers are crucial team members at the camp, helping campers get from activity to activity, stay motivated and have a blast.

“We count on YVC,” says Tamra Scherer, director of the camp.

Camp Bennett has depended on YVC of Muskogee volunteers for as long as YVC has been in the community (20+ years now!). Every summer, Youth Volunteers serve as additional helpers between the counselors and the campers.

Lasting Friendships

Each Youth Volunteer is assigned to a group of campers, and they join the campers on all activities throughout the day. Their most important role is to get to know the campers and just be friends.

“It’s so much more than helping hands, it’s the friendship that you see being built,” Tamra says.

Tamra says that one of the best parts of the relationship is after the camp, when campers and YVC Youth Volunteers run into each other around town, and their new friendship brings them together in ways that never would have before.

“Both the campers and the youth love it,” Tamra says. “They all have certain ones that they really want to be their buddy.”

Throughout the camp, the buddies get to do all kinds of fun activities including swimming, bowling, crafts, archery, field trips and more.

One of the most popular activities is fishing, which both the campers and Youth Volunteers love. Fishing is especially fun with the youngest campers, says Eileen Van Kirk, Program Director of YVC of Muskogee. “All the little kids kiss their fish before they let them go,” she says.

Muskogee - Summer 2014 Camp Bennett - 5Crucial Volunteers

Camp Bennett runs two different programs: two weeks of camp for adults with special needs (anyone who has graduated high school, up to the oldest camper who is 74), and three weeks for kids with special needs (5-21 years old).

YVC of Muskogee volunteers help set up the camp and help throughout the camp, with some campers helping every single week.

“They love to take some of our really hard-to-handle campers and just smile with them and help them with their arts and crafts,” Tamra says. “You can see the campers light up when they see their finished product.”

Tamra says that the YVC volunteers have been such a crucial part of the camp for the last 21 years, and she has some advice for similar camps around the country who are looking for some additional volunteer help: “Get on board with YVC, and there won’t be any regrets!”

Finding Dream Jobs

Over the years, many Youth Volunteers have had such a profound experience helping at the camp that they chose career paths in special education after their experience.

“It is a great opportunity for our kids as well as the campers,” Eileen says. “It’s one thing to help in a self-contained environment, and quite another to take these kids out to public events and locations in the community. It gives the campers extra confidence to have their ‘YVC buddies’ there to help them test their abilities.”

Even those who never would have considered a career in special education can see the impact that they have when working closely with the campers, and many realize they’ve found their new dream job.

Muskogee - Summer 2014 Camp BennettSelfless Giving

Tamra knows firsthand the difference that YVC can have on youth, with two of her granddaughters having volunteered with YVC over the years. “You can tell that they feel so good about themselves,” she says.

She raves about the youth who devote a huge portion of their summers to helping these campers have a great experience.

“They give of themselves for the time they have a camp,” she says. “It’s unbelievable the things these young people go out and do for the camp.”

Each camper leaves with a whole crew of new friends, and each Youth Volunteer leaves knowing that they have truly made a difference.

“It’s a win-win,” Tamra says. “The YVC kids go away with a great feeling. The campers love their role models. The staff loves having them.”

 

*All photos are of YVC of Muskogee Youth Volunteers helping at Camp Bennett, but campers are not pictured out of respect for their privacy.*

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How to Have Fun on a YVC Project in 5 Steps

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Abby Englert_croppedAbby Englert (pictured at left trying out some photobooth props for the YVC Summit), 15-year-old volunteer with YVC of Greater Kansas City, knows how to have fun on every YVC project. Of course, that’s usually not very hard, but in case you’re nervous before your very first project, she’s got a few pointers for you:

1. Be excited for your project. It’s going to be fun so be excited! Don’t dread it.

YVCKC - Summer 2014 HQ project - 22. Talk to people during your project. It’s so fun getting to know people who might not go to your school.

3. Be really involved in the project! Make the most out of your experience by doing all you can to get the full experience. By doing this you’re basically becoming a leader in the project you’re working on.

4. Be open to new things and possibilities during your project. Try to learn new things about the organization or what the organization focuses on. You might be surprised to what you learn from just being open to new things.

5. Enjoy the experience! Pick a project that you are passionate about. This is not hard to do especially with all the options your local YVC gives you. If you don’t like the outdoors, don’t pick a farm project. Pick a project with an organization that works with kids if you enjoy working with children. It’s important to enjoy what you’re doing. So make sure to have fun when working on your project.

Thanks, Abby, for writing some great tips on how to have fun on each and every YVC project! Do you have a great idea on how to make your volunteering experience even better? Contact Lacey at lhelmig@yvc.org to share your story!

Spotlight on: YVC of Greater Kansas City

Posted by Youth Volunteer Corps on

Iron County Spotlight 5.2.14

It’s the middle of summer and boy, is it hot! Despite the stifling heat, YVC Youth Volunteers all across North America have been working hard! We love seeing all of the pictures from the YVC Summer of Service; you are making a huge difference in your communities and it is awesome!

This month say hello to YVC of Greater Kansas City, also known as YVCKC. Founded in the summer of 1987, YVCKC was the very first YVC program. With over sixty summer projects, serving forty-eight agencies this year, YVCKC has one of the largest summer programs in the YVC network.

Ben Dillon, AmeriCorps Team Leader at YVCKC, let us take a peek at their awesome summer program.

Ben Dillon 2014 YVCKC Team LeaderTell us about YVCKC’s summer program:
YVCKC’s Summer of Service is an 8-week intensive program that allows youth to volunteer in groups of 5-20 while learning about important community issues. Each service project lasts four days: Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Youth serve for one week (or more if they choose) on projects focusing on the environment, community needs, animal welfare, senior citizens and children. The program is unique because it allows youth to develop a deeper rapport with non-profit agencies, community members, and other volunteers than they typically could when volunteering alone or sporadically.

What are you looking forward to the most this summer with YVC?
Just like many of the Youth Volunteers, I’m looking forward to serving in diverse areas of the Kansas City community and working alongside present and future change-makers. Each week will be different, both in terms of the project and the group dynamics, so I’ll constantly be adapting and learning. In just one summer I’ll be a gardener, a trail builder, a historic preservationist, a dog walker and a camp counselor. Not many people can say that about their jobs.

What drew you to AmeriCorps and being a Team Leader?
Having previously served with AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), I experienced the value of service-learning first hand. I served in communities that I would have otherwise never visited, gained valuable skills, and formed friendships that will far outlast my time with AmeriCorps. As a Team Leader, I want Youth Volunteers to have the same amazing experiences I had, and I think that YVC’s team-based structure and focus on learning while serving is the key to that.

What is your favorite part of being a Team Leader with YVCKC?
When a project is successful, it’s rewarding to witness the “Aha!” moments as the youth connect on a personal level with a community member or an issue. The effect of the service is not always immediately apparent, but I know from my own service experiences that the little lessons a volunteer learns can stay with him for a long time.

YVCKC - Summer 2014 (36)What do you think is most important for running a successful, meaningful volunteer project for youth?
As one of my former supervisors always said, you have to show volunteers the “why behind the what.” This puts the learning in service-learning. For instance, if you’re asking volunteers to pull weeds in a garden all day, they need to understand the importance of that task. Once they connect weeding with feeding people in need, the task takes on a whole new light.

Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into a successful project; it needs to be dynamic, fun, social, safe, challenging, and rewarding. It’s certainly not easy to balance everything, and I’m still learning how to make projects more successful.

What advice do you have for other AmeriCorps Team Leaders?

I’ve learned a lot from my Team Leader in AmeriCorps NCCC and from my fellow YVC Team Leaders. Here are just a few pieces of advice:

  • – Be yourself.
  • – “Get down in the trenches” with the volunteers.
  • – Treat the volunteers as peers–in terms of both expectations and respect.
  • – Ask lots of questions.
  • – Celebrate small victories.
  • – Take it a day at a time (or an hour at a time).
  • – Delegate, delegate, delegate.
  • – And when things are getting a little out of control, “circle the wagons” and bring the team back together for a reboot.

Ready to tour some other YVC programs? Check out our previous Spotlights on Hampton Roads, Iron County, Plymouth, Calgary and Yellowstone County.

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