On a Monday morning this summer, local teens came to learn how to be volunteer leaders. They started their day off with some inspiration:
Zach Bonner wanted to raise money and awareness to combat homelessness. So he walked 2,500 miles from his home in Florida to Los Angeles. When his journey ended, he had amassed $75,000 to benefit the cause.
With such an impressive accomplishment, would you be surprised to know that Zach Bonner was only 12 years old when he finished that journey?
“Without knowing it was someone young, I would’ve figured that it was at least someone 30,” said Ryan.
“It’s inspiring because there’s a lot of stuff you can do even at a young age to change things and help with the community,” said Alyssa.
Ryan and Alyssa are two of 35 local teens who participated in one of two sessions of Activate Good’s Teen Leadership & Service Program. Zach’s story and others like it are helping to inspire them to pursue volunteer causes of their own.
During the first session, in late June, the teens gathered at the Wake County Commons Building in East Raleigh to learn about local issues and hash out some leadership ideas. They had fun while also getting down to business. They socialized while eating lunch and tossed beach balls during breaks. They also delved into research about social issues in North Carolina and learned about local organizations dedicated to solving them.
As the teens sifted through eye-opening statistics, they learned more about where their volunteer leadership was needed. Alyssa was surprised to learn that 83% of homeless children had experienced violence.
Amber Smith, Activate Good’s Executive Director, gave the teens a mission: Come up with an actionable goal to help a cause by the end of the week.
For Jamie, it was inspiration she got from Nicole Moinet of the Dean Thomas Moinet Foundation. Nicole was one of three panelists who came to discuss healthcare issues in the Triangle. Jamie felt a personal connection with Nicole’s story about helping the families of sick children. Having spent time in the hospital herself as a child, she knew she wanted to get involved.
Jamie was surprised to learn about all the out-of-town families who come to our local hospitals. Cut off from their home and community, the families need help with everyday activities. One of many ways the DTM Foundation helps these families is by delivering nutritious meals to them at the hospital so the families can focus on the job of nursing a sick child back to health. With this inspiration, Jamie is planning to start a food drive at her high school to help these families.
Grace is already making a difference. She has volunteered with Urban Ministries to raise money for homelessness.
“My school did a charity ball for them and we raised $140,000. It was amazing. After volunteering and working with the people, I think homelessness is a thing I would continuously want to volunteer for and help,” says Grace.
“Sitting inside all day is not going to get you anywhere,” says Andre.
Andre envisions starting a youth program to encourage kids to be more active, both for their minds and bodies.
As the teens wrapped up their first day, they gathered cross-legged in a circle. Stories about young volunteers like Zach who made that cross-country journey were a local reality in people like NC State student, Jess Ekstrom, who combined her love of crafting with her desire to help young cancer patients. For each stylish headband she sold, she delivered one to a child with cancer. She now runs a successful business called Headbands of Hope.
As the first day ended, volunteer leadership ideas began to take shape. Sam saw himself getting involved with an environmental cause while Jamie knew it had to be healthcare.
Even though there would be a lot of work ahead, they knew they were one step closer to making a difference.
See photos from both summer sessions on Facebook, here. Check back soon for Activate Good’s full report on the Teen Leadership & Service Summer Program.