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The attentiveness and positivity of youth never ceases to amaze us.
We just wrapped up our second annual Teen Leadership & Service Summer Program, and the social observations, emotional and logical motivations, and fun ideas for change shared by our participating teens each year is more than inspiring.
Each year, we help our teens dive into four main cause areas impacting our local community, and the world: poverty, health, education, and environment. Of course, within these topic areas come discussions of homelessness; equity in education; access to health support including fresh food and knowledge; preserving public lands for people and animals alike, and more. With so many major discussion areas, we do our best to give our teens information, but take pride in our ability to allow them the opportunity to guide the Program’s conversations with personal stories and concerns, facts, and questions for local professionals. After all, it’s about their passions and hopes for their communities.
At the beginning of each week, we tell the teens the truth: You will get out of this what you put in. Some of our teens share stories of their own volunteer experiences and challenges, or challenges faced by friends and family; others share stories of things they’ve witnessed in public that made them think, or triggered an emotional response. No matter the story, their passion and motivation – and perseverance – shines through. You can see the stories resonating with the peers in the room.
Before you know it, the teens are finding talking points and similarities with others in the Program, hopefully making friendships surpassing the week. Some even shown up tired on a given day in the week, sharing that they stayed up all night talking with each other and brainstorming their ideas in Google Drive. Others have worked together outside of the Program’s hours to code a website for their group’s social change volunteer project idea. Ah-mazing!
Throughout the week-long program, teens get a chance to complete and earn volunteer hours through hands-on experience at a local nonprofit, or through portable projects at our Program location to benefit local causes. This year, teens completed volunteer projects benefiting students at Learning Together, youth served by Families Together, families and youth served by the CENC Food Bank in Raleigh, students in the Wake County Public School System, and sick youth served by Zach’s Toy Chest. Each project connected back to the issue areas discussed in the Program week.
This admittedly unintentional theme of “youth helping youth” seemed to come up countless times throughout the program, but seemed to help the teens feel connected to others just like them in new ways, deepening the impact of their service.
For 2019, we hope to continue building on and improving the Program based on the candid feedback we received from the teens during and after each week. If you’d like to view our impact report, express interest in joining us next year, support the Program, refer a teen, or review our updated schedule and plans as they happen, click the button below. We hope that whether you’re a teen or parent – or someone supporting youth and families – you’ll work with us in some way to continue supporting youth doing good in the Triangle.