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Alumni Spotlight: Nathan Stahley

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Nathan Stahley was a team leader for the YVC program in Billings, Montana. He helped launch the program in 2008, and stayed with the program until 2012. We caught up with Nathan and asked him a few questions about how working with YVC youth shaped his life. 

What is one of your favorite memories as a member of YVC?

One of my favorite memories was of a unique summer project we did. We had about ten youth volunteers participate, and the project was a week long. It was a video project where the students brainstormed a topic the first day of the week, and then we did everything from story boarding to filming and editing video. It was very interactive and engaging and students were able to select if they wanted to be behind the camera or in front of it. They chose to focus the short film on examining student perspective of what qualities make for a quality teacher. We held interviews of students to capture their voice. The last day of the project we did a small showing of our film to the parents of YVC students, and we also made plans for teachers to watch the short film that fall. It was a fantastic project for different personalities to engage in a creative way and learn the basics of film making. I really saw some bonding between the YVC members that participated, and they were all passionate about the work we were doing.

How did being involved with YVC affect your life/career path?

Being involved with YVC was a wonderful learning and growing experience for me. I was lucky enough to be part of starting the program in Billings, MT, through the United Way of Yellowstone County. From helping write the original grant that kick-started the program to growing the program, I felt lucky to be part of that process. After three, nearly four, years of being part of YVC as a leader I left United Way but stayed in the communities working at the local City-County Health Department. The following two years I continued to work directly with youth, focusing on tobacco prevention and suicide prevention efforts. I continue to work in at the health department on these issues. My positive experience working with YVC students really showed me the potential of engaging youth in positive ways. As I have continued to work in Public Health, I have become more familiar with not only how these positive relationships can impact future citizenship, but also how it can prevent chronic disease in adulthood. It is so important to have someone in a youth’s life that can help them navigate stressful situations in a healthy way, and I believe YVC is doing that through service projects led by positive adult role models.

What is one of your biggest life events from the past five years?

One of the most challenging, but rewarding, changes for me recently has been moving into a management role at the local health department. It has been rewarding to be able to coach and guide a team of five and the work they do to prevent youth tobacco use and address other population-level health concerns. It has been a real change for me, as I have been more removed from the ground level of the work than ever before. I have seen it as an opportunity to apply the different skills I have learned over the years to move programs forward, and I have enjoyed tackling problems with great a great staff. Being able to innovate to address new public health concerns like teen vaping is one of many challenging yet rewarding topics our team has had to address recently.

What’s a unique fact about you that people don’t know?

One thing that not everyone may know about me is that I really enjoy music, and when I am not working I am either making music or listening to it (live or on my headphones). I play percussion in a local band, and this last year we have written almost a dozen original songs and played gigs across the community. The creative process with a group of five has been such a valuable experience and form of self-care to help prevent “burnout” from the stresses of work. We are looking at recording some of tracks in 2019 and hope to establish ourselves in the small but growing music scene in Billings, MT.

Is there anything you want YVC alumni to know about you now?

Since I have stayed in Billings, MT, I have continued to support my local YVC when I have the time. In 2018 I joined the Youth Leadership Council for our local YVC to help foster continued youth leadership in our program.  Volunteering in this way has been a great way to see the progress YVC has made after I left my formal role in 2012. I would encourage all alumni to find ways to continue your YVC journey no matter where you might be now.

Thank you to Nathan for taking the time to speak with us and share more about his life and how YVC has helped him find his path. 

Did YVC make an impact on your life? We want to connect with you! Sign up for our Alumni Network to connect with other alumni and share your story.

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Hasta la VISTA!

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Jake and Sydney both started at Youth Volunteer Corps as AmeriCorps VISTAs in late November of 2017. As their terms end at YVC, they reflect on their time and how they’ve grown over the year. We have asked Jake and Sydney to share some of their thoughts and memories as they move forward in their professional careers.

Q: What was the most meaningful experience that you had?

Sydney: Last year for YVC Day, I joined a YVC project in Kansas City at the Kansas City Community Kitchen. I had such a great time! I had been talking the talk but not walking the walk so to speak, and having the chance to join in on a project, meet YVC youth, and see our impact was really meaningful.

Jake: The entirety of Summit was meaningful to me. Since Summit was towards the end of my term, it was really cool to see all of the youth that I had been helping both directly and indirectly for the last year. It really put the scope and importance of YVC into perspective for me.

Q: How did you grow from your term?

Sydney: In too many ways to list. Perhaps the biggest way I’ve grown is my confidence in myself. YVC pushes you to take on new projects and initiatives that help you grow as a professional (and as a person), and I am much more confident in my spectrum of skills and the assets I can bring to a team.

Jake: My skills have grown exponentially since I began my term. I joined YVC fresh out of college with very little experience under my belt, and am now leaving with more new skills than I can even count. I was told by multiple people that I came off as increasingly more confident professionally the longer I worked at YVC.

Q: What is one of your favorite memories during your term?

Sydney: Going to our national Summit conference in Charleston, SC! I loved meeting all of our incredible affiliates and learning more about the work that they do. It was such a fun, exhausting, and exhilarating trip and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Jake: Definitely making the introduction video for Summit. Sydney and I created the outline and script, and then I was mainly in charge of the filming and editing. We put aside a half-day to get the whole office involved, which was a lot of fun.

Q: How has your VISTA term prepared you for future jobs?

Sydney: One thing that I loved about my VISTA term is that we weren’t treated like interns – we jumped right in and had the opportunity to tackle “big kahuna” sized projects. I have never felt more prepared for an interview, as I have taken on a wide variety of projects and tasks and can talk about them for as long as a person will allow me. YVC truly cares about your personal and professional growth, and I appreciate that in an employer.

Jake: Throughout my VISTA term I have been afforded tons of opportunities to gain the professional experience I have wanted. I plan on moving into a career in advertising after my term has ended, and YVC and VISTA have allowed me to grow whatever skills I need to set me up for success.

Q: What are you most proud of?

Sydney: Writing a grant and being awarded $30,000 from it. The day I opened that letter, I almost fell out of my chair I was so excited.

Jake: It is a tie between creating websites for our seven new programs in Kansas and Missouri, or the summer youth recruitment plan I created for each of these new sites. I created the websites with almost no web design experience, and the recruitment plan allowed me to work with a budget for the first time, so they were both important projects for me.

Q: What will you miss the most when you leave YVC?

Sydney: What I’ll miss most is the office culture and the friends I have made. One of the most important things that I have learned is what my ideal office culture looks like: welcoming, supportive, fun, dynamic, motivational – I could go on! My coworkers have become my friends, and I will definitely miss seeing their faces every day.

Jake: I’m really going to miss seeing the YVC team every day. It is going to be very difficult for my next job to live up to the wonderful environment YVC has offered. On the bright side, I have made friends with everyone I work with here, so I plan on seeing them a lot more in the future.

Q: What advice would you give to new and potential VISTAs who want to work with YVC?

Sydney: Probably the hardest part about living as a VISTA is the living allowance – as one who is helping eradicate poverty, your pay is at a poverty level. However, it IS doable (plus the education award at the end of your term to pay for college is SWEET), and I definitely think it’s ultimately worth it. My year at YVC is one I will never regret; I’ve learned so much and have been surrounded by some of the most amazing people I will ever meet.

Jake: You should be certain the VISTA lifestyle is for you. A VISTA term can be extremely rewarding, but you should always consider if you are able to make the financial and economic sacrifices necessary to be a VISTA.

Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Sydney: I cannot recommend working at YVC enough. There hasn’t been a day that I’ve woken up in the morning and dreaded going to work, and I think that says a lot. My VISTA term has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my life, and I am so happy that I had a chance to work here. Now that my term is up, it’s time for someone new to step in have the same opportunity that I did. That person is you!

Jake: I just want to thank everyone at YVC for not only being so welcoming and inclusive, but also genuinely supportive and caring of my future endeavors and me. It is rare to find such a perfect group of people that all get along and enjoy each other’s company so much, but that is exactly what YVC is.  Everyone at YVC has played a huge role in my professional and personal growth, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

YVC is looking for new VISTAs! We hope you consider joining the team. 

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Relationships Matter

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As a youth organization focused on service, we spend a lot of time talking about the great service projects youth do all over North America. They feed the hungry, help shelter animals, build wheelchair ramps, and so much more. However, along the way, they also build relationships that help them grow. We also know this is a two-way streest, as youth volunteers improve the lives of the people they serve and the adults who manage their programs.

Around the end of the year, we collect stories and quotes from youth about YVC and the projects they are most proud of. There were two very special stories this year that reminded us that YVC is much more than addressing community needs through service. YVC is a place where relationships have an enormous and lasting impact on the people we become.

For Malorie, it was a reflection about Cindy Rose, her YVC program director.

Cindy has made such an impact on my life. I would not be standing here today without her and her guidance she has given me. From jokes to laughs to tears, she has been there for me. She has been by my side every moment since I have joined YVC, and her amazing personality makes my experience worthwhile. She has never focused on herself, yet, she does so much for others. She pours her heart and soul into every project and meeting we do. Our YVC would not be the same without her there. She expresses her gratitude to us when she is proud or when we have accomplished great things. She has done so much for us, yet we never do enough back. Cindy and her actions are the definition of a leader. She is such an inspiration, and I look up to her. She motivates us in our social and personal lives. The council she leads has helped me gain confidence and make a difference in my community.

 As her retirement nears, I wondered what advice she would give to incoming and present program directors. She says, “Get to know the youth, what they like, and  what they want to volunteer for. Listen to them and be friends with everyone. Make this a super fun experience, as they learn about who they are, where they live, and show them (YVC volunteers) how they really are making a difference in their communities. Make them all feel very proud about what they do!”

For Valencia, she told us about getting hooked on service after hearing a presentation about the program. (One she had not intended to attend!) And becoming an unexpected second-generation YVC volunteer in her family, as her mother was part of the original program when it began 25 years ago. It must have been a sweet surprise when her daughter told her about the program she wanted to join!

I got into YVC kind of by accident.  My school had an afterschool program, I went for Art Class.  One day one of my friends told me and another friend to come and volunteer and help with something for an hour.  When we got to the classroom there was a lady there, which turned out to be Eileen.  She started telling us about YVC.  My two friends left, but I stayed.  I got into YVC the fall of my 7th grade year. My first project was cooking dinner at a church. From that moment on, I volunteered whenever I could.  I have met a lot of people that have been in YVC for one or more years before me that are still in it. 

When new volunteers showed up this year I started feeling old for being here for over four years already, and I’m quite in shock I hit 500 hours this year.  It really started as something to keep me busy, but it has become a part of me.  Fun fact, my mother was a volunteer for YVC when it was started in Muskogee, and she volunteered for two years at the projects we replicated this year for our 25th anniversary, which I think is pretty great. 

We should never underestimate the role relationships play in shaping our lives and the people we become. Maybe this would be a good time to think about someone who changed your life and let them know the impact they made.

 

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My Summit Experience 2018: Friends, Fun & Learning

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This year’s Youth Volunteer Corps Summit held in Charleston, South Carolina was my very first Summit. My program in St. Louis is brand new and our program director recently moved. So, I was walking into my first Summit with no other volunteers and no program director. I was alone. Everyone else had a program director and other kids that they could hang out with, so it wasn’t easy for me at first. I knew some of the other kids from the IYAB calls, but I had never met any of them in person, and we were all kind of awkward at first. Our first session of the day was an IYAB only meeting, and after that everyone was a little more comfortable. I ended up sitting with a couple of IYAB members in the next session and we quickly became friends. I especially got to know one girl in particular, Sarah. It was so crazy, we literally had so much in common.

Once I found friends, it made Summit so much fun! We walked to the Urban Farm (which was so cool!) and I learned so much. We got to build blessing boxes, pallet gardens, and learn all about the plants that they had at the farm. It was cool to meet a lot of the other kids from all over during the service project.

After the Urban Farm we had an IYAB dinner, which was so fun too! I got to know more of the IYAB members personally, AND we got ice cream! It was so interesting to hear about how everyone’s lives were so different, yet how we had so many things in common.

The next day was super informative. I tried to go to as many Vikki Clark sessions as I could, because who wouldn’t? She’s amazing. I learned about goal-setting and empathy and it was really cool to see how she worked that in with our volunteer work.

Next, I went to the Planning a Project session, which was probably one of my favorite sessions. It was SO fun being able to be creative and come up with our own ways to address a problem in the community, and actually planning for it with a budget and all.

That night, we had an awards ceremony and dinner where we recognized the accomplishments of all the amazing youth volunteers and program directors. I sat at a table with none other than THE Vicki Clark herself, so that was pretty great. After that, I hung out with my friends until 12:45 AM, which was pretty rough considering I had to wake up at 4:00 AM for my flight. It was all worth it and I wouldn’t trade a second of it. I walked into Summit not really knowing anyone, and I came out with some great friends.

 

 

 

 


Claire Kellick will be entering 11th grade this year, is a volunteer with YVC in St. Louis, MO, and is a member of IYAB. She loves math and science and hopes to become an engineer. She is part of the varsity softball team at her school, as well as Amnesty International, and the Anti-Defamation League. At her first YVC meeting she fell in love with a dog who is now part of her family. (Lucky dog!)

Building Awareness and Understanding: One Homeless Night

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On a typical Friday night in November you might expect teenagers to be at a high school football game, playing video games, or passing time with friends, but for YVC youth in Kansas City, students prepare to spend an entire night out in the cold. YVCKC’s annual One Homeless Night is an amazing way to spread both awareness about homelessness and develop an understanding among youth about the struggles of living without a home. When I first participated in One Homeless Night, I remember sleeping in a cramped cardboard box, enduring frigid temperatures, and going without any food in my stomach, giving me a brief glimpse of the difficulties of their lives are on a daily basis. In the morning, I had the chance to interact with some of the homeless in my community and was surprised to discover the wide range of social and economic reasons that led them to wind up in transitional homelessness. While this may not seem appealing to the vast majority of teenagers, I continued to participate in this eye-opening experience for the next four years. One Homeless Night is organized by our local Youth Advisory Board, which plans various icebreakers, service learning opportunities, and invites credible speakers to the event. Additionally, an impactful movie is usually played while we participate in team building exercises and set up our refrigerator boxes. We then brace the cold, spend the entire night outside, and in the morning serve breakfast to those in need. In a city where over 2000 youth are homeless every day, this service event is essential in order to spark future change in our society. I have seen firsthand the importance of this event, as it magnifies the empathetic nature of the youth who participate and fosters their dedication to a lifelong commitment to service. While I am 18 and won’t be able to participate in another one of YVC’s One Homeless Night, I am truly grateful for what the event has shown me and the impact that it has had on our community.

 

 

 

Patton Meacham is an active youth volunteer with YVC of Greater Kansas and currently serves on YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board. He attends Blue Valley North High School, where he is involved in DECA, Spanish Club, and varsity lacrosse. Additionally, he is dedicated to serving and improving his community.

Serve Small

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Often times, when I am talking about my volunteer work, people state “Oh, I wish I could do that, but I’m too busy” or “That would be a great group to be apart of, but I don’t think I have time.”

The definition of community service is: voluntary work intended to help people in a particular area. This definition allows great ideas for many different ways to help serve the community. An individual can serve largely by helping with natural disaster cleanup, donating time or money, or serving many hours of their time with an organization. All parts of volunteering matter and add up to equal a bigger picture.

For example, if you stop using plastic disposable straws in restaurants or in your home, you can reduce waste in your community landfill and save plastic from entering rivers, lakes, and potentially oceans, therefore helping wildlife. The smallest actions have the biggest chain reactions furthering my explanation of how you don’t always have to serve on a three hour volunteer project each week to make a difference.

A snow storm comes, and you have an elderly neighbor that is physically unable to shovel her driveway. You can serve her by shoveling her driveway, while you are out doing your own.

It’s officially spring cleaning season and you have piles of clothes that you don’t wear sitting in your room. Instead of selling them, donate them to your local shelter for others to use.

A classmate is injured and on crutches and is having a hard time carrying their books between classes. Help carry anything they have or help them get different books out of their locker.

We have encountered all of these situations at some point in our lives, whether we took the opportunity to help and performed an act of service without realizing it or passing by it because it wasn’t considered an act of service worthy enough for your time, it was. The smallest of services usually have the biggest impact.

For example, visiting with your elderly neighbor for ten minutes may not seem like anything to you, but for them it may mean everything.

Babysitting for a single mom so she can shower or go get groceries is another simple way to help others, without taking half of your day.

I always encourage people to become involved in their community by joining volunteering teams to help serve on a greater level, but even the smallest acts never go unaccounted for.

As Whoopi Goldberg said,

“If every american donated five hours a week, it would equal the labor of 20 million full-time volunteers.”

Next time you are leaving practice, ask a peer if they need a ride home. When you are sitting at home playing on Facebook, call that neighbor and ask how they are and if you could come over just to talk. At a restaurant, when the waiter puts a straw on your table, think about the wildlife you could help by not using it. Use a Starbucks reusable cup instead of the plastic disposable one. Make a goal for the amount of times you will start to volunteer a week, even if it is as simple as giving someone half of your sandwich at lunch.

Small ways to serve in your community:

  • Get in touch with the local animal shelter to see what supplies they need
  • Mow your neighbor’s grass
  • Share your lunch or buy someone’s lunch
  • Think eco friendly when buying, or using plastic
  • Give your classmate a ride home after practice
  • Donate your unused clothes to a shelter
  • Participate Adopt-a-Family during the Christmas season
  • Help a neighbor do daily house maintenance
  • Carry an injured classmates books
  • Offer to babysit someone’s kid(s) so they can run errands
  • Help tutor a friend or classmate

 

Leah Craig is an active youth volunteer with YVC of St. Joseph. She currently serves on YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board and is a YVC Brand Ambassador.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

The Problem Still Exists: Hurricane Harvey Relief

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Natural disasters are often overlooked by those who were not directly affected by it. We may hear them on the media for a few weeks; but eventually, our media refocuses on more current events. The short attention span of our social/news media nowadays does not nearly make up for the families’ recovery time of over a decade.

This summer, I got the opportunity take a pause on my own life in Philadelphia, go down to Houston with my Youth Volunteer Corps/Repair the World family, and work with the St. Bernard Project to help repair houses for homeowners who are still currently recovering from Hurricane Harvey that hit nearly a year ago.

There were ten of us, eight youth volunteers, our Repair the World fellow Becca, and our program director Greg. Together, we were able to help the repair effort at two houses: The Cardenas’s and Kim Ocain’s. In the span of three days, we managed to cover the Cardenas’s floor entirely with wood planks and helped the progress of covering the floor with tiles at Kim Ocain’s house. During our lunch breaks every day, we listened to other local Houstonian volunteers and project volunteers talk about the hurricane, their experience with it, and how they’ve been trying to cope with the damages as well as help others in the county. Our discussions made me realize that we often overlook the number of people’s lives lost and houses ruined, and that we often only see them as just numbers and statistics. However, it’s much more than that. Houses flooded to the ceiling, schools flooded so much that they had to be torn down, and sentimental objects that had to be throw away due to the mold that grew on them just hours after its initial contact with the flood water. What’s worse is how some people treated the homeowners. Despite the fact that these homeowners received money from the government to repair and recover from the hurricane, many contractors would take the money and flee away from the project, leaving the homeowners without money and without a plan to recover their houses.

A category 4 storm, Hurricane Harvey took the lives of almost a hundred people, left thousands more injured, and tens of thousands of homes, schools, community centers flooded and damaged.

Not only was the county’s infrastructure jeopardized, but so were the mental lives of every family. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night, scared, to the sound of soft raindrops because they reminded you of the four-day-long storm that ruined your home you loved dearly. Imagine explaining to your little elementary children why they cannot go to school for the time being because their school no longer exists. Imagine trying to reach out to contractors who eventually flee with the money the government granted you to repair your house.

Working alongside other volunteers of YVC, RTW, and SBP made me feel powerful as a helping hand in the Houston community, and devoting a few days to the recovering effort taught me so much more than any other experience I’ve ever had.

Houston has also made me realize that there are so many issues we don’t necessarily see and read about. However, they are still there, no matter where you are in the world. Despite the fact that I am not in Houston anymore, there are still so many ways I can get involved in the hurricane relief effort. Even just spreading awareness, donating, and sharing stories will help. Now, I am sharing my story of how I helped, hoping that someday, you can, too.

 

 

This guest blog post was submitted by Winnie Zheng. Winnie is a high school student in Philadelphia, PA., who has been an active volunteer with YVC of Philadelphia for 3 years.

 

 

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Before and After – Community Garden

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One of the biggest things that initially made me unmotivated or unenthusiastic about volunteering with YVC was that I didn’t see the “endpoint” or “goal” of the work we were doing. Of course, it is incredibly satisfying to see something you worked hard on reach its goal. However, when volunteering in most places, this is rarely the case. This is because the progress and change through volunteer work, in most cases, takes time. A very strong example of this lesson that YVC taught me was when I worked in a community garden.

 

The first “step” of my experience working there happened in May, when we cleaned and weeded beds for planting. I didn’t think very far into to the future of what would happen to the bed at that point in time, so I didn’t really think of how useful it might end up being to the garden. The work was relatively easy, but by the end of it, I didn’t feel as if I made a huge difference in my community. This was because I didn’t really see it benefiting anyone immediately.

However, during a summer YVC camp in late June I saw the bed, only it was overgrown with strawberry plants. We were told to pick the strawberries so that they could be given to a local food bank. The work was suddenly easier than the weeding project I did in May, because each time I picked a strawberry, I held the result of all the work in my hand. I had that feeling of satisfaction that I did make a difference in my community because I knew that those strawberries would eventually find their way to the food bank and then, finally, into the hands of someone who needed them.

That experience changed the perspective I have on volunteer projects that seem to be incomplete. Instead of looking at projects like the seemingly incomplete one in May as useless because they don’t seem to have any immediate effect on the community, I began to look at them as if they were a step on the path to completion. In the garden experience I shared, there are a lot of steps within it to reach the end goal. First, we had to weed and clear the beds. Second, someone, most likely other volunteers at the community garden, had to plant the strawberries. Third, someone had to pick them, and later, of course, they would have to be sent to the food bank and distributed. Even in this example, I “skipped” steps that would lead to the overall goal, such as the planting and sending the strawberries to the food bank. This experience gave me more patience when it came to seeing the progress made on volunteer projects, as each project was just a piece of the puzzle.

One of the coolest parts of seeing the “before and after” part of the process was that I got to experience the result of what I did and worked on. This really motivated me to work hard on any project, even if it seems like it doesn’t make an impact immediately. This was because I saw that all of the projects eventually make a difference, just some faster than others.

 

 

 

Ian is an active youth volunteer with YVC of Corvallis.

He currently serves on YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board

and is a YVC Brand Ambassador.

 

My Summit Experience

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When I first arrived at YVC summit I was greeted by some of the most energetic, positive people that I’ve ever met. The team leaders, adults, and all the volunteers were super welcoming and helpful. Summit embodied the true meaning of YVC perfectly and helped show me what volunteering is all about. Before going to YVC summit I loved to volunteer and I figured it would be something I would always try to do, but after going to Summit I realized the true importance of volunteers and I was inspired to work even harder with my YVC program and other volunteer projects in my community when I went home.

 

A YVC project has an icebreaker, a volunteer project, and the service learning aspect. Summit incorporated all three of these elements.
There were people from different cities, backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and socioeconomic statuses all coming together in a conference center in Kansas City. At first, I felt like we were all super different, it was one of the most diverse rooms I’ve ever been in; but then, I realized that being a part of YVC and having a passion for volunteering is what truly unified us. Through icebreakers and games, everyone was able to get more comfortable around each other and get to know one another. Summit offered a lot of free time where we were able to spend time with other volunteers and go out around the city which was really fun! It was eye-opening to meet so many different people and hear their stories.

 

Summit had service projects incorporated into the event and we were able to volunteer in the community. The cool thing about volunteering at Summit is that you get to learn about a different community’s needs rather than your own. It was a cool experience because I live in a pretty small town, so to go to a bigger city and volunteer showed how me how needs can be very different based on the location.

 

There were lots of opportunities for service learning spread throughout Summit that were educational and engaging. There were different lectures, lessons, and workshops to get youth volunteers learning! It was super cool how the lectures and lessons were applicable and relevant to our own lives. I went to a grant writing workshop and I learned how to appeal to different businesses. When I returned home I was able to use the knowledge to get sponsorships for an event my school put on! There were lots of really talented speakers at Summit, including youth. It was really meaningful to see so many people speak so passionately.

 

The YVC Summit has been one of the most memorable things I have ever done. Getting to meet so many amazing people who all share a common passion isn’t an opportunity youth can frequently find. Anyone affiliated with YVC in any way would benefit by going to Summit to further their love for volunteering.

 

Jessica Hovermale is an active youth volunteer with YVC of Corvallis

and has served on her local Youth Advisory Board for two years.

Jessica is an active member of YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board.

Alumni Spotlight: Sheliza Kassam

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Alumna Sheliza Kassam working with her nonprofit, Children’s Birthday Miracles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheliza Kassam was a youth volunteer for the YVC program in Calgary, Alberta from 2009-2015. Sheliza is now a Drilling & Completions Engineering Intern at CNOOC Nexen Ltd, and she founded a charitable organization in January 2013, Children’s Birthday Miracles. We caught up with Sheliza and asked her a few questions on serving with YVC youth shaped her life. 

What is one of your favorite memories of YVC?

One of my favorite memories of volunteering with YVC through Youth Central, our host organization, was a program we did that allowed me to peak as a leader. I served as a co-chair of the Mayor’s Youth Council and was one of 20 youth that represented the city and worked with the Mayor to find solutions to issues concerning youth. We saw other cities take part in similar programs and I was driven to see it begin in Calgary.

I’ve been fortunate to have an incredible mentor, Ros Doi, who has been with me since my time at YVC through Youth Central and has supported me in my career. Her support has allowed me to start a program in Calgary that allowed students from grades 6-12 to act as a mayor for the day. Our committee reviewed applications and sent our top choices to the mayor, who chose the final student. This student got to act as mayor for the day and lead the program and have their voices heard. It was an incredible program for me to be a part of. It really allowed us to hear what students had to say and have a student representative to act in a leadership role. Even the students who weren’t selected still had their voice heard, as we incorporated their ideas into our strategic planning for future projects.

How did being a member of YVC affect your life/career path?

YVC greatly strengthened my communication skills. People often question the connection between engineering and communication, but most people don’t know that it’s important to be a social engineer. We need to see more people bringing together their communication skills and technical work – if you can’t communicate your ideas well, it won’t of benefit to you, your work, or your team.

Volunteering with YVC helped me articulate myself and present myself well in a professional manner. It also taught me how to empathize with others, communicate effectively, and build relationships in the workplace through the industry and through volunteering. I am now able to build valuable relationships with my coworkers. People often underestimate how important it is to build these relationships in the work place. When you volunteer, you’re meeting with a diverse group of people that you otherwise would maybe never connect with, like the homeless or children with disabilities. At the end of the day, you have to transform yourself to relate to these people. This teaches you something incredible.

What is one of your biggest life events from the past 5 years?

In March of 2017, I had the opportunity to be recognized as one of L’Oréal Paris Canada’s 2017 Women of Worth. This was an incredible honor as I was chosen as one of 10 women across Canada, and I received a $10,000 grant for my charity. I had the opportunity to go to Toronto to network with the nine other inspirational women who are also not getting paid for what they do. These women are working pro bono and out of the goodness of their hearts to make an impact on their communities. Because of this opportunity, we were able to start a chapter in Victoria created by Sarah Nolin, and receive a sponsorship from Google. It was such an honor to be named one of L’Oréal Paris Canada’s first ever Women of Worth.

What’s a unique fact about you that people don’t know?

I’ve been Bollywood dancing since I was three! Bollywood dancing is a huge passion of mine. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to dance as much with my busy schedule, but I try to take a class every now and then when I have time. I used to love to perform, and now I try to choreograph a few pieces of my own whenever I have a free moment in my schedule.

Is there anything you want YVC alumni to know about you now?

I would love for alumni to know a bit more about my charity, Children’s Birthday Miracles (CBM). CBM is a charitable organization aiming to ensure that underprivileged children have the opportunity to have a birthday party. We throw birthday parties across the globe, and I truly believe we are making a difference. People underestimate the need for birthdays. There’s so much power to a birthday and I have so many wonderful stories and memories because of it, and I wouldn’t have started this without YVC and my experience with volunteering at shelters in my community. It can be very humbling to volunteer here, when I get to go and see how grateful kids are when their birthdays are celebrated.

I also like to remind people to know who you are, and don’t let your age play a factor in if you can do something or not. That’s the beauty of life! If every youth had the mindset that they could do anything they wanted, we could do incredible things.

If you’d like to learn more about Sheliza and Children’s Birthday Miracles, visit her website at: http://www.childrensbirthdaymiracles.com/

Thank you to Sheliza for taking the time to speak with us and share more about her life and how YVC has helped her find her path. 

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