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. ”