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.
Tell 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.
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.
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