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It’s Summit Time!

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We have sent our last reminder emails, the food is ordered, the reservations are final and all the deadlines are now in the past. The 25th Anniversary Summit is finally here, and we are as giddy as kids at Christmas awaiting your arrival!

We are taking this opportunity to share with you the one special thing each one of us is most excited about:

 

Darcy

As it turns out (and lucky for us!) Darcy knows everyone in Kansas City. As we began planning this Summit, no matter the issue, no matter the topic, Darcy would say, “My friend so-and-so owns an amazing restaurant and she could …” So it was no surprise when she was asked what she was most looking forward to, that her answer was, “All the little extracurricular activities that folks get to do here in Kansas City. I love Kansas City and all the amazing people here doing incredibly interesting things. It is truly a thriving community.” And that will be apparent to all of you when you explore the city, taste all the amazing food and talk to Darcy about what recommendations she has for things to do.

Lacey

Since Lacey started full-time as YVC’s Communications and Media Coordinator, we have completed a major branding initiative (including designing and printing numerous branding items), designed a new website, planned a nationwide 25th Anniversary Celebration of Service, moved our offices twice, hosted an open house attended by the Mayor of Kansas City and organized the Summit. Oh … and in the middle of all of that, Lacey planned her wedding and got married in Oregon in September! As you can imagine, Lacey is determined to enjoy herself this weekend, and we all support that goal. “We set up a hangout room, icebreaker games, a scavenger hunt, among other activities, so that we can all have plenty of time to get to know each other and have some fun,” said Lacey. “Look for me in the game room!”

Tracy

Since Tracy arrived at YVC a little over a year ago, we have undergone some major changes! Thanks to her steady and capable leadership, we have accomplished some extraordinarily lofty goals, none more important than organizing this Summit. But if there is one thing you will learn about Tracy, it is that despite her focused determination, she insists on laughing and having a good time. Needless to say, the improv comedy show at Comedy City was her idea and it is also what she is most looking forward to. “We will be rolling up our sleeves and getting a lot of work done during this Summit and that is exciting, but I insist on having a good time,“ she said. “I have always had a blast at Comedy City and I can’t wait to share some laughs with all of our visitors.”

Paul

As Paul approaches his one-year anniversary as Affiliate Serves Coordinator, it is amazing to step back and recognize the monumental task he faced as he stepped into this new role. Fortunately his years as the Program Director of YVCKC, which is thriving in no small part due to his leadership, prepared him for the task at hand. His calm and steady presence has been a major part of our ability to make some major changes this year and not crumbling under the immensity of it all. This Summit is the culmination of a great deal of planning and effort on his part and he is looking forward to finally witnessing the fruits of his labor. “All of the workshops are going to be great, but I am really looking forward to the workshops that are being led by Directors, Team Leaders and Youth Volunteers,” said Paul. “Affiliate participation will be crucial for our growth, and my goal for this Summit is to get Affiliates excited and involved.”

David

Anyone who knows David knows that he is a people person. If you haven’t met David, you will this weekend! He loves to be in the middle of it all, and his enthusiasm and excitement for YVC’s mission is contagious. One of our most recent favorite “David Moments” here at the office is when YVCKC Team Leaders initiated a “How Far Can You Jump?” game, and there was David hurling himself across the office trying not to be outdone. We all could have predicted that what he is most looking forward to is participating in games and workshops and hearing from all of you. “One of the things I am really excited about is the formation of a National Youth Advisory Board,” says David. “I love having youth involved as much as possible, and the possibility of having youth from all over the country participating in our growth is everything I could have hoped for!”

 

We can’t wait to see all of the Youth Volunteers and YVC staff traveling across the country (and Canada!) to meet up in Kansas City! See you tomorrow!

Can’t make the trip? Follow along on Twitter at #yvcsummit.

June 8, 1987: The First Day of YVC

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YVC’s President and Founder David Battey in 1987.

People ask when I thought YVC was going to be a success. They are surprised when I am able to pinpoint a day and time—Monday, June 8, 1987, at 5:30 p.m.

You see, that was the first day of service for the 47 high school youth who had signed up to be in the brand new Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City.

A lot had gone on right up to that June day—the United Way Volunteer Center had stepped forward to sponsor the project, six nonprofits had developed summer service projects, a very diverse group of teenagers had signed up to be on four-week projects,and the overnight team-building camp had been a success.

My main question after the first day of service was very basic and kind of important—would any of the teens come back for a second day? I needed to know before Tuesday, June 9, 1987.

So I went up to my room at my parents’ house in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. The same room that had been mine since I was seven years old; the same one that my parents thought it was time for me to move out of as a 24 year-old man.

In a time before cell phones, text messages, caller ID and call waiting, I knew what I had to do. I had to call a few of the Youth Volunteers and see how their days went.

I looked over the roster of names and with some trepidation decided to call Andi Prevost. My trepidation had nothing to do with Andi—she was a nice young woman from a public high school in suburban Kansas City. My trepidation came from how she would respond to my question—How was your day? (I didn’t feel like I should couch the question as bluntly as “Will you be coming back to be a part of YVC tomorrow?”)

Her mom got Andi on the phone, and as nonchalantly as I could, I asked my question. As only a high school girl can, she gushed about her day. She talked about the kids at the inner-city community center where she had volunteered, she talked about her Team Leader, she talked about the other teens on her team… On and on she went with little prompting from me. I’m not sure how many questions I could have formulated for Andi; I was overwhelmed in a way that doesn’t happen often in life. Her enthusiasm for service and for doing so with a diverse team of peers was validation that YVC was going to work. I knew then that Youth Volunteer Corps was going to be a success.

My conversation with Andi had energized me. I went on to call another Youth Volunteer that evening, and another and another. The responses were so heartwarming and inspiring, whether they came from boys or girls, public school kids or private school kids, those who lived in the inner city or suburbs, those who did human service projects or those who did physical service.

I never tire of talking to young people about their service with YVC. Indeed, I have been doing so for 25 years now. No matter how long I am blessed enough to hear the energy and idealism in a youth volunteer’s voice, I will never forget that call to Andi Prevost on Monday, June 8, 1987, at 5:30pm.

25th Anniversary: Celebrating the past and looking forward

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Twenty-five years ago, youth were embarking on the first YVC projects ever, serving at a daycare for kids with special needs and helping coordinate activities at community centers. This year, in celebration of YVC’s 25th Anniversary, youth are serving on projects just like those first ones.

That first week of projects in the summer of 1987, 53 Youth Volunteers served at six different agencies throughout the Kansas City area. This year, hundreds of youth are serving at dozens of locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Already this month, youth have been busy learning about water conservation and gardening in the desert with YVC of Southern Arizona, working at a camp for children with special needs with YVC of Muskogee, and socializing cats at the local animal shelter with YVC of Greater Kansas City.

Although the scope of YVC’s reach has increased since 1987, the projects themselves look the same. This summer youth will be serving on similar projects as those 25 years ago, and the structure of each project is the same too. Since the beginning, YVC projects have been structured purposefully to help build youth up and encourage them to develop a lifetime ethic of service.

Since research has shown that if young people’s first experience with volunteering isn’t positive they may be turned away forever, YVC projects are specifically designed to be a positive experience with youth—this means they are all group-based, organized by an adult Team Leader, and include icebreakers, team-builders and service-learning lessons. YVC was designed this way 25 years ago, and researchers are now beginning to back this method up.

Developmental Psychologist Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell studied the benefits of summer programs for teenagers and found that the success of an activity can be determined by three key factors. Below are the three factors to consider, followed by how YVC service programs incorporate them.

  • Are there opportunities for leadership? – YVC programs offer youth the chance to stand up and be leaders both on each service project and in developing overarching programing.
  • Are there opportunities for understanding? – YVC welcomes all youth and encourages them to challenge themselves. All YVC projects are led by adult Team Leaders, who are often just older than the youth themselves and can relate well to the youth.
  • Are there opportunities for friendships? – YVC projects always begin with icebreaker games so that youth can get to know each other, and Team Leaders promote an open atmosphere that helps youth feel welcome.

With 25 years of Youth Volunteers changing the world through their service, the answers to these questions are the same as they were in 1987 on those first YVC projects. The only difference is that now, YVC has the proof in stories of its own.

A Blossoming Story

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The following story is the first place submission of the YVC Transformative Story Grant. YVC of Alpena will receive a $1,000 grant and free registration for one person to attend the YVC Summit in November. This story was written by Brad Somers, Program Director of YVC of Alpena.

Alpena - Natalie DeFour Pic 2As the YVC director I have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of Youth Volunteers. One youth, Natalie, has been a constant inspiration and breath of fresh air since my inception with the program 4 years ago.

Natalie came to YVC looking to branch out and be more active in the community. She understood the value of giving back at a much earlier timeframe than most of her classmates.

Natalie struggles with extreme shyness. This may not sound like a debilitating hindrance, but it really held her back from opening up and getting to know individuals. As a director I wanted to see her flourish and be more comfortable in a group setting and have her voice heard. Natalie is a straight A student that has a lot of great things to say, but still had not learned how to use her voice. Through icebreaker and reflection activities Natalie was eventually put in situations before and after each project where she would have to share her thoughts and feelings. She slowly started to break out of her shell and actively engage in discussion.

Natalie is now a senior in high school and has earned the Volunteer of the Year Award performing over 400 hours of community service and the Youth of Year Award. She has earned the Presidential Service Award-Silver Medallion with her volunteer work. She now gives public speeches to community leaders, classmates, board members, and administrators from the area. She is the President of the YVC Youth Advisory Council and talks openly to new and potential members about the benefit of the program. She actively recruits with me and her voice is now being heard. There are so many wonderful things that she can let out. She has opened up others through her words and turned them on to volunteerism.

She attributes working with YVC as her outlet to express herself and credits the staff for allowing her to grow and have her voice heard. Teaching youth the skills to express themselves is a crucial part of the job and Natalie has not disappointed. She is a great asset to the YVC program and has really become my strongest leader and most vocal advocate, learning that being heard in the community is an important aspect to becoming a great leader and role model.

Congratulations to Natalie and YVC of Alpena!

Honoring Dr. King through service

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Every single day Youth Volunteers across the country are serving with YVC, but last Monday, they were serving for one purpose: to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Hundreds of youth served with YVC to honor Dr. King, who was one of the greatest volunteers of the last century. Whether they were scrubbing a homeless shelter or playing bingo with residents of a retirement home, they were living out Dr. King’s vision of a community.

Below are just some of the great things that Youth Volunteers accomplished on MLK Day:

  • YVC of the Capital Area turned their day off into a day on to help beautify several local schools. They painted inspirational murals, painted the school colors and motto in common areas, and more.
  • YVC of Western Connecticut launched a three-month long service program that began on MLK Day. Thanks to a grant from the UnitedHealth HEROES program – a service-learning, health literacy initiative developed by United Healthcare and Youth Service America – YVCWC kicked off a program focusing on nutrition awareness. The program will culminate with the building of (literally) a Healthy Wall of Food at a local mall on Global Youth Service Day on April 21.
  • YVC of Racine began their day with a rally to honor Dr. King at the local Martin Luther King monument (see photo at the top of the page), then they dispersed to a variety of service projects throughout the city. About 250 Youth Volunteers served on projects, including one group who volunteered at a local retirement home making crafts with the residents and talking with them about their dreams, in honor of Dr. King’s dream.
  • YVC of the Eastern Upper Peninsula organized 100 disaster-preparedness kits for senior citizens in the community.
  • YVC of Grant County, New Mexico made signs and held a rally to promote Dr. King’s teachings of social justice, diversity and civil disobedience.

Thanks to everyone who gave up their day off to make a difference in their communities!

YVC Spreads Holiday Cheer

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Despite the cold weather, Youth Volunteers from all over the YVC network have been busy spreading holiday cheer through service projects this month. YVC offers youth the chance to make a difference in their communities throughout the year, but the holiday season brings on new ways for youth to spread joy to those in need. Here’s what just a few affiliates throughout the YVC network have been up to:

YVC of Hampton Roads has hosted a variety of projects during the month of December to help their community. They bundled up to help lay more than 6,000 wreaths at Hampton’s National Cemetery as a part of the national program “Wreaths Across America.” They also hosted a holiday party at a local retirement home, including caroling (see photo above), games and crafts. Finally, they helped bag groceries for people who may otherwise go without food this season.

YVC of Western Connecticut helped the needy in their community in a HUGE way by donating 3,700 items to a food bank that collects food for families affected by HIV/AIDS. They didn’t stop there, though. They also helped wrap dozens of gifts for local families in need.

YVC of the Eastern Upper Peninsula made a huge difference for some families in their community when they organized Thanksgiving dinner baskets for 50 families to celebrate the holiday.

YVC of Yellowstone County  helped at a holiday carnival for community members. Not only did they lead craft projects for kids, but one lucky Youth Volunteer got to play the role of Santa!

Thanks to everyone helping their community this holiday season!

Guest Post: Dr. Price-Mitchell on Youth Programs

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Thanks to Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell, a developmental psychologist who focuses on youth empowerment and citizenship, who has agreed to republish the following blog post for YVC. While her original post focuses on how to evaluate the quality of summer programs, these three standards are relevant for any youth program, whether it takes place in the summer, on weekends or after school.

We were very excited to learn that Dr. Price-Mitchell’s work confirms what experience has shown us over the years, that youth-led group based programming can have the most meaningful impact on youth.  Following is Dr. Price-Mitchell’s original post followed by resources to learn more from her studies:

3 Ways to Evaluate Summer Programs for Teenagers

Summer programs can be transformative for youth, helping them to develop leadership skills, acquire greater knowledge of themselves, and foster friendships with peers.

Finding meaningful summer programs for teenagers can be challenging.  There are many choices, including sports, camps, arts programs, and volunteering. Helping find the perfect fit is an important role for parents, grandparents, teachers, and others.  Offering advice can make a difference – pointing teens to activities that are fun, and also offer opportunities to develop character strengths, skills, and abilities that will last a lifetime.

As children grow to middle and high school age, they seek more autonomy and independence.  They naturally react against authority and the kinds of structure found in programs for younger children. Research studies that have evaluated summer programs for teenagers consistently highlight three things that attract teens and keep them engaged over time, each outlined below. Not surprisingly, these program qualities also benefit teens developmentally.

When young people have opportunities for leadership, understanding, and friendship, it can help them navigate adolescence in ways that advance their skills and feel good about themselves.  Summer programs for teenagers help prepare older adolescents for a variety of roles they assume as they reach college-age and the workforce.  When helping middle and high school students evaluate summer programs, ask the three following questions:

Are there Opportunities for Leadership?

One of the most important aspects of summer programs for older youth is whether they offer young people the opportunity to learn leadership skills.  In particular, research suggests that adolescents should be provided with meaningful ways to assist in leading activities, contribute to program decision-making, and play an active role in making the program a success.  When this occurs, young people learn to overcome challenges in the real world, like how to communicate and collaborate with others outside of their families and close circle of friends.

Victor, age 19, participated in numerous summer programs for youth and volunteer activities during high school, including working in a hospital emergency room, at a petting zoo, and tutoring children. He also took advantage of Kiwanis programs and became a Key Club leader.  Reflecting on these experiences, he said: “I believe that having the opportunities to both serve and lead at many levels had a strong shaping effect on who I am as a leader and a person today.”

Are there Opportunities for Understanding?

Teenagers need to be understood and appreciated for who they are, not just for their grades or how well they do in sports and other activities.  Research shows that older youth respond best to programs that are guided by an intentional process of mutual learning and respect. That is, they like structure that encourages interaction between them and program staff where staff take the time to get to know them in depth, learn about their interests, and appreciate them as individuals. These nurturing relationships help young people believe in themselves and foster the development of identity.

Scott, age 20 reinforces the importance of having adults who understand youth. Speaking of a program he started in middle school, he said, “They met me at my level.” Although he was shy, program staff helped him “stretch my rubber band a little bit,” encouraging him to stretch his boundaries and learn about himself.  He remains forever grateful for people who took the time to get to know him.

Are there Opportunities for Friendships?

Older youth are motivated to participate in programs that provide opportunities to develop peer relationships and friendships. And developing these relationships is important to their self-esteem and self-worth. Finding programs that have been referred by friends or where friends are already involved can be a good way to evaluate the quality of the program.  It can also help your teen stretch his or her comfort zone to try something new.

Young people often talk about the importance of working side by side with friends.  Bryon, age 18, who participated in JROTC during high school, talked about a friend who influenced him to try new activities.  “And when he became the Key Club president, I worked a lot with him and we did a lot of joint projects together. We did more projects because of how much we liked working together.”

This blog post was originally published here on May 30, 2011.

Find more information about Dr. Price-Mitchell and her work at www.mpricemitchell.com.  Her recent study “Civic Learning at the Edge: Transformative Stories of Highly Engaged Youth” offers insight into how youth become engaged in community service or other meaningful activities. Check out her blog Roots of Action or follow her on Twitter at @DrPriceMitchell for more information on her work.

References

Arbreton, A., Bradshaw, M., Sheldon, J., & Pepper, S. (2009). Making every day count: Boys & Girls Clubs’ role in promoting positive outcomes for teens. Philadel­phia: Public/Private Ventures.

Deschenes, S. N., Arbreton, A., Little, P. M., Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., & Weiss, H. B., with Lee, D. (2010). Engaging older youth: Program and city-level strategies to support sustained participation in out-of-school time. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.

Price-Mitchell, M. (2010). Civic learning at the edge: Transformative stories of highly engaged youth. Doctoral Dissertation, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA.

Russell, C. A., Mielke, M. B., & Reisner, E. R. (2009). Evidence of program quality and youth outcomes in the DYCD Out-of-School Time Initiative: Report on the initiative’s first three years. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates.

‘Fires to be lit’

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Here at YVC, we design youth service projects to ignite a passion in our Youth Volunteers–to get them hooked on volunteering. We plan interactive projects and service-learning to meet each individual volunteer’s needs and interests. A recent TED presentation echos these sentiments and articulates them perfectly.

Peter Benson, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute and one of the world’s leading authorities on positive human development, delivered thispresentation on youth development. Here’s an excerpt from his speech, followed by the full presentation:

Most choose to work with our youth from the outside in, filling them with our values, with factoids and expectations. Instead, what if we worked from the inside out? What if we let this person emerge for who he or she is, encouraged their spark, nurtured that?

 

How do these ideas affect how you interact with youth? And how can we better implement the idea of sparks to engage youth in service?

Back to School with YVC of Western Connecticut

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Today’s blog is a guest post by Samantha Sommerer, Program Coordinator of YVC of Western Connecticut.

On 9/11 the YVC of Western Connecticut, which is hosted by United Way of Western Connecticut, participated in the Taste of Danbury, a two day event where different restaurants sell samples of their food, agencies come out to advocate for their causes and great music is played. In order to combine our participation in the Taste of Danbury with the 9/11 Day of Service, the YVC of Western CT decided to sign pledges to commit to community service hours and write cards to veterans, military families, Military spouses, and soldiers through a program called Operation Honor Cards. Seven Youth Volunteers completed a total of 14 community service hours!

Our YVC also participated in the Back to School Program hosted by the Volunteer Center of the United Way of Western Connecticut. The Back to School Program provided brand new backpacks with school supplies and gift cards to about 300 children in Danbury. The YVC participants truly enjoyed the opportunity to  hand out the new backpacks filled with supplies. The YVC volunteers said seeing the smiles on the kids faces when they got their backpacks was so amazing!

Thanks to Samantha for submitting a guest post! Do you have a story to tell about youth volunteerism? Email Lacey at lhelmig@yvc.org.

A transformative summer of volunteering

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This story was written by a parent of a Youth Volunteer who participated in a YVC summer program this year. To protect her son’s privacy, she has asked to remain anonymous.

I’ve always thought every child has wonderful qualities, each child is different and each child needs to have a way to express their strengths.  This summer my son discovered this for himself while serving with YVC.

The road hasn’t always been easy for him. Our son has anxiety and ADHD, has had trouble socializing with kids his age and tends to get really upset over small things.

We have always found many great things about our son, but he has not seen them in himself.  He is not as athletic as the other kids in the neighborhood, so he will often lose to younger kids in athletic games.  Since this type of play is almost daily, he tends to get down on himself.  This leads to arguing on his part, which makes him feel even worse about himself.  He didn’t have something he felt he was good at doing.

When he started volunteering this summer, he was able to do something that the younger kids were too young to do.  He started acting more mature.  He also showed a work ethic that I have never seen.  I was shocked that he never asked to stay home, even when it was 105 degrees and he was working outside.  In the past, he would have tried every excuse in the book to get out of working, like a migraine, which amazingly he did not have the entire time!

He had a very hard time showing empathy for others in the past.  His therapist said it was common with ADHD and his maturity was slow, so we would just have to teach him empathy over time. That all changed after he served with YVC this summer. He started showing empathy for others and rarely asks for material things now.

Before, he would ask and expect to get things immediately. He would ask for something and say, “It’s only $75!” and not understand why I wouldn’t drop what I was doing and take him to buy it. Now, he may point out something he thinks is nice, but then comment on how expensive it is and how long it would take to earn that much money or alternatives for what that money could buy.

For instance, he was walking through a store the other day with his sister and me. She saw something and said, “It’s only $50,” and my son explained how $50 was a lot of money. He went on to explain what many people could do with that $50, like the little boy we are sponsoring through our church.

His general attitude has changed. He is more responsible, mature and helpful. I don’t have to ask him to do chores—he will ask me if he can help me. If I say, “It would really help me if you would clean for me,” he says, “No problem,” and just does it and does a great job. Before, I would have to ask a million times, and then he would do a halfway job. I’d have to check it and have him redo it two or three times. Now, he takes pride in his work and does an amazing job the first time and is proud to show me.

I would love to have the program year-round. Some kids aren’t athletes—they don’t have practice after school. Many people ask, “So what do you do outside of school? Do you play sports?” They would have a great topic to discuss and be proud of: “No, I VOLUNTEER!”

This program really made him feel helpful, needed and good at something. He felt like he belonged to something, and he was proud of himself.  He was motivated enough to show up every day because he felt that his contributions were that important to the projects.

If kids are able to give back to their community, work in their community, see so many different areas, and help people in their community, it makes them respect all of those people and areas of their community.  Hopefully, they will continue to respect their community and feel connected as they grow.

Do you have a story on how service has transformed your life? Please email Lacey at lhelmig@yvc.org.

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