Getting to Know… Sharin Tellez at YVC of Racine

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One of the many messages that YVC passes on to its volunteers is that volunteering is a lifelong activity; it’s something every individual can continue to participate in as the years pass by, and something that you’re never too young to do. Sharin Tellez, Youth Coordinator at the YVC site in Racine, Wisconsin, is a living example of this lesson.

She has been volunteering since the age of 13 when she needed a productive activity to fill her time but was too young to get a paying job.  When she was 16, though, her volunteer experience paid off in a big way. Sharin utilized all that she learned with the Responding to Emergencies and Disasters with Youth program to save both her own family and her neighbors from a flood. This experience and more inspires her to spread her love of volunteering to youth through YVC.

“Since I started volunteering, I’ve worked with a lot of different organizations and have been a part of the community for quite a while,” she said. “Because of this, I know enough people so that when I go out and see families, parents, or teachers, I can plug my program and tell them all about our summer program.”

For the past six months, 19-year old Sharin has been in charge of the YVC of Racine, helping to arrange the site’s summer program. She not only plans YVC projects and supervises the youth on the projects, but she’s also constantly working to promote youth volunteerism, whether she’s on-site at a project or just spreading the word at the local grocery store.

She’s been kept busy ensuring that both she and the program are visible in the community, but knows all of her intense work is necessary for the rewarding end result.

“It’s been my biggest priority to talk about our program during community events because we need to make the program more widespread and known,” said Sharin. “This means a lot of networking. I’ve worked with schools to make sure we can talk to their kids about getting involved with the community. It has also required a lot of learning on my end because I have to learn in order to teach others.”

This year’s summer program was a huge step in the right direction for both Sharin and YVC of Racine as a whole. It was comprised of week-long camps at six different sites, with six-hour work days. Youth Volunteers had a variety of projects to choose from, including a disaster preparedness camp where a mock disaster taught the volunteers how to handle various situations and a food bank where baskets of food were built and distributed to those in need. They also planted, weeded, and harvested in a community garden, socialized with the elderly, and worked at a sustainable farm.

“I wanted to make sure each one of these camps is really different because I’ve got to keep it interesting for the kids, based on what I would want to do,” Sharin said. “Plus, the diversity of the kids is great. I like having kids who otherwise wouldn’t socialize with one another. It shows that we’re not as different from one another as we would like to think we are.”

While Racine has been passing on the YVC message that volunteering is important, Sharin has been teaching an additional lesson through her hard work and dedication.

“I’m nineteen. I’m a teenager, and this is my home. These are my people. This is who I am,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are because you can accomplish a lot. It’s great to have our youth working here to make it the best we can because we’re proving that our youth are a lot more valuable than some people give them credit for. ”

Our neighbors in Joplin

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Since YVC’s national office is based in Kansas City, we’ve all been thinking a lot about the tornado that devastated Joplin, MO, last week and the people whose lives were affected.

We thought about them last Sunday when the news first reported that our neighbors a few hours south were hit by a deadly tornado.

We thought about them last Wednesday morning when a tornado came our way, and we took cover together in the ground-floor stairwell of our office.

We thought about them Wednesday afternoon when we were safely back at work, with no major harm done to our city.

But here at YVC, we try to take action instead of simply sending our thoughts. YVC of Greater Kansas City, which shares an office with the YVC national staff, is holding a supplies drive and has collected boxes upon boxes of water bottles and toiletries. Two Youth Volunteers even turned their graduation party into a collection drive and collected an entire carload of supplies this weekend.

Yesterday, Jenn Beard, YVC’s Vice President of Affiliate Operations, gave up her Memorial Day to get her hands dirty and help the people of Joplin. Read about her story and see before and after photos of the destruction at her blog here.

We’re looking at ways we can help even more by taking further action. Meanwhile, we’re still sending more thoughts because sometimes, our thoughts are the most valuable thing we have to offer.

Volunteer this summer to build experience

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Teens with visions of flipping burgers or lifeguarding this summer may be left with no job and an empty wallet, if economists’ predictions for the teen job market are accurate. A record low one-in-four U.S. teenagers who are looking for a summer job are expected to be hired, according to a study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

The good news is that volunteering in the summer can have even longer lasting benefits than a minimum-wage job. Working without pay may not be as attractive to a high school student, but with the promises of resume-building and potential future scholarship opportunities, it may have more long-term pay-off after all.

Committing to volunteering can help you:

  • Gain leadership skills and learn to take initiative on issues you’re passionate about.
  • Learn how to interact with others and find things you have in common with people from all walks of life.
  • Build teamwork skills serving on a group project like those YVC organizes.
  • Gain applicable job experience serving at a variety of nonprofits. Try out what it would be like to be a veterinarian by volunteering at an animal shelter. Perfect your writing and communicating skills by helping with marketing tasks at a nonprofit.
  • Strengthen your college application by showing you were committed to a long-term project. A study by surveyed 33 colleges and universities and found that commitment to a volunteer project was more powerful on a college application than a short-term service trip abroad.
  • Try out potential careers by volunteering at a variety of nonprofits.
  • Have a lot of fun and meet new people on your projects!

If you find the job search even more difficult than you anticipated, don’t hesitate to try volunteering instead. Go to to find a YVC affiliate near you to get started on a summer volunteer program.

Guest Post: Q&A with Peter Levine of C.I.R.C.L.E.

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Peter LevineMany thanks to Peter Levine, an expert on youth civic engagement, for answering some questions for the YVC blog! Peter is Director of C.I.R.C.L.E. (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) and Research Director of Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. We’re excited to feature him in our first-ever YVC Blog interview!

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