Ten Years Ago, Today

Growth and progress feel so slow when you’re impatient to achieve a goal. That’s why it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since I first set out on this path. Ten years that now feel, in retrospect, like they flew by. A third of my life. A third. In many ways I still feel like a child, wandering around, guessing at right answers, trying until I get it right, and often flopping. And in many other ways I feel like a wise old soul, looking back fondly (and with some amusement) at my fumbling 21 year old self. The one who put off going back to school to take off on a life-changing journey to change the world. On September 2, 2004 — exactly ten years ago — my best friend Heather and I stepped into my 2003 Chevy Cavalier, packed to the brim with clothing and foodstuffs, and drove west. The Volunteer Road Trip Before Facebook and Twitter were things, before either of us had any sense of nonprofit marketing or budgeting or fundraising, we left with about a thousand dollars in our collective pocket on a road trip around the country to do good. Glowing with idealism, we defined our mission: To change the world by spreading the message that people should help each other and causes in need. We’d do this by volunteering in every state we visited, learning from nonprofit and community leaders as we went, while proclaiming to strangers and friends we encountered along the way that if everyone rose up to get involved, we could truly alter humanity’s course. We drove west...

Service Learning to Service Doing: Activating Teen Do-Gooders

For those unfamiliar, Activate Good’s Activate Schools program is designed to empower the next generation of community leaders and volunteers through a Leadership and Service service-learning curriculum. We partner with area high schools to implement this curriculum and give students access to in-depth learning about community issues and how they can be a part of solving them. As part of the curriculum, students are asked to study community issues then develop an idea for a service project that would address one of the issues they are most passionate about. Students form groups to develop their service project ideas, then present them to community members, who act as judges, scoring each project idea. The top scoring project idea wins a cash award from Activate Good, which they use to carry out their project with the rest of their classmates. Finding Passion Through Service Learning Recently, I joined other community members in judging service project ideas from students in our Leadership and Service curriculum at the Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy. My new role as the Activate Schools Program Coordinator has allowed me to spend a considerable amount of time immersed in Activate Good’s Leadership and Service curriculum. It has also caused me to imagine what it would have been like for me to go through this course as a high school student. It’s really when I listened to these students’ ideas for making a difference in our community that the elements of the Leadership and Service curriculum came to life. In every group’s presentation, I could identify an “ah ha” moment, the moment students in that group awakened to their...