The Office on Children & Youth will hold our 16th annual Teen Health Fair on Wednesday, April 23rd and Thursday, April 24th at Turner Ashby and Spotswood High Schools. The central purpose of the fair is to provide area high school students with objective, accurate health information while exposing them to agencies and resources from the surrounding community. We are excited to engage over 1,500 students during the fair. Representatives from over thirty community organizations will be present providing health, wellness, and career information to area youth. Our diverse vendors and agencies provide insight and professional knowledge on a variety of health related topics including domestic violence, public safety, nutrition, teen pregnancy prevention, and mental and physical health. We are proud to be sponsored this year by the CCAA (Community Coalition on Alcohol Abuse), Aramark, Jimmy Johns, Cargill, and Dominos. Interested in volunteering? Please contact Jamie Sherman by email, email@example.com for any questions related to the event.
March 29thth, 2014 at 4:00pm, Masanutten WaterPark
We are excited to announce this year’s Lucky Duck Race Fundraiser, a fun and easy way to support the programming and work of OCY. How it works: Buy a Lucky Duck ticket, get $15 dollars off your Masanutten WaterPark general admission pass and a chance to win huge prizes, including a chance at winning $25,000!! Each ticket you purchase corresponds with a rubber Lucky Duck that will be sent down the Lazy River at Masanutten WaterPark. The first three Lucky Ducks to cross the finish line win great prizes. Bring the family the day of the event to enjoy your WaterPark discount, but there is no need to be present to win.
By purchasing a lucky duck ticket, you are supporting important programs like:
The Reading Road Show – Gus Bus: a mobile literacy program and bus that provides an opportunity for children and families in low-income communities to share story time, participate in a book exchange program, and build literacy skills.
The Migrant Education Program: provides supplamental instructional services and advocacy for highly mobile migrant children in order to help studets reach challenging academic standards and graduate with a high school diploma or GED.
Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Provides positive youth development in middle and high schools in Harrisonburg, Page and Rockingham to prevent risky behaviors with our community’s youth.
Harrisonburg/Rockingham Youth Council: A youth-led community service group that empowers area youth to make healthy decisions and create a difference in their community.
Get your tickets soon!!! To purchase a ticket, or to volunteer to sell tickets, contact Jennifer Rea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-568-2559.
*The first ten ducks that cross the finish line will be entered in an automated online system to match a preselected duck number and win $25,000. A $25,000 winner is not guaranteed.
OCY’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program implements Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®), a positive youth development program whose core component is Community Service Learning (CSL). CSL builds strong youth and provides valuable contributions to surrounding communities. Over the course of nine months youth participants choose and plan at least 20 hours of community service or community-oriented projects. Since starting our Harrisonburg, Rockingham and Page County TOP® clubs in September and October 2013, several groups have experienced a “Taste of Service.” These opportunities acquaint them with service and get them thinking about creating their own projects. Here are some highlights so far!
In October, two groups from Spotswood High School traveled to the New Community Project’s Sustainability House in Harrisonburg to help prepare their gardens for cold weather. The teens learned about the various programs there, and worked together with other volunteers to cover and protect young plants from the fall frost.
Our Second Home Child Care Center group in Harrisonburg consisting of 6th and 7th graders walked to the Explore More Discovery Museum one brisk afternoon to help prepare for the annual downtown event, Halloween on the Square. They made 150 bracelet packets for the museum to distribute.
Two groups from East Rockingham High School cut, ironed, pinned and sewed tote bags for Peak View Elementary School children. The TOP® students put to use their blossoming sewing skills to help out youngsters in their own community!
This month, Harrisonburg/Rockingham Youth Council members have already planted trees at Brookside Park in Harrisonburg with help from The Natural Garden. They also planned and led a panel of local community volunteers and leaders to help them understand how youth can address local civic and community needs. Youth Council members will take what they learned from the panel and create their own community service activities.
An afterschool group from Harrisonburg High School recently spent time at the Boys and Girls Club at Spotswood Elementary School. They played with children there and helped them discuss bullying. Prior to going, the group researched the aims and objectives of the Boys and Girls club and identified what talents they personally brought (ex: good at basketball/soccer, have patience, experience with kids etc.) and were able to put those talents to use with the young people at Spotswood. It was lots of fun!
Last but not least, our Page County High School group raised $1,250 for breast cancer research that they will donate in person to the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center at UVA! To raise cancer awareness and raise these funds, 35 students and teachers signed up to dye their hair pink or shave their heads if they raised a certain amount of money. TOP® members said they “learned so much from this experience, especially how teamwork is essential to the success of this type of project.” This project named “Zero to Hero” will soon be highlighted in the Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® national newsletter.
Together these groups of teens and pre-teens have already contributed over 200 service hours to help communities around them. And they’ve only just begun! We’re excited to see what else our young people come up with the rest of the year!
Are you a high school student who wants to get involved in the community? Want to meet new people, have fun, and figure out what’s important to you? Then the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council is the place to be!
Youth Council, a Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program®, is an outlet and space where youth plan and implement community service projects, have fun, and figure out how to make those hard decisions in life! Perhaps more than anything it’s a place where young people can build positive and caring relationships between peers and adults.
If you are interested in learning more about Youth Council come out to our annual Kickoff Picnic at Purcell Park on Thursday, September 26th at 6:00pm, shelter number 1. We will have games, free food, giveaways, and talk more about the Youth Council and ways for YOU to be involved.
Beginning October 3rd, we will meet EVERY Thursday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Blue Ridge Hall in room 309 (across from Costco on University Blvd.).
Questions? Contact Josh Diamond at 540-568-2571 or at email@example.com. Find us on Facebook by searching Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council.
The Office on Children and Youth is a Certified Replication PYouthCouncil_poster2013kickoffYouthCouncil_poster2013kickoffartner of Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program ® (TOP®). TOP® is a comprehensive, evidence-based youth development strategy that promotes the positive development of adolescents through a combination of curriculum-guided group discussion and volunteer service learning.
Designer Handbag Bingo Fundraiser!
Mark your calendars October 19th for the annual OCY Designer Handbag Bingo fundraiser – featuring COACH, Dooney & Bourke, and Vera Bradley bags! We have beautiful, elegant bags this year and you don’t want to miss it! Join us for a fun evening in support of local youth and children’s programs! All proceeds support direct service programs of the Office on Children and Youth.
Where: Weyers Cave Community Center
When: Saturday, October 19th. Doors open at 3:00, games begin at 5:00
How much: Pre-sale tickets = $10 (for 1 card);
Tickets at the door = $15 (for 1 card)
*Each person only needs one ticket. Additional bingo cards can be purchased at the door for $5 each or 5 cards for $20.
*Get your tickets early for special pre-sale only games and door prizes!
Thank you to our sponsors!
Major Event Sponsor – The Printing Express
First Bank and Trust
Call 540-568-5814 or email Natalie Duda at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to order tickets today. Interested in sponsoring a bag or the event? Contact Natalie.
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This interview between Outreach and Development Specialist Josh Diamond and OCY Director Kim Hartzler-Weakley gives a glimpse of the history and growth of the programs here at OCY. They also discuss some of the personal and collective motivations and reasons for working with young people and children. Enjoy!
JD: You’ve been at OCY for a while and in various forms and now work as OCY’s director. Tell me about your history at OCY.
KHW: It’s funny; I remember when I was interviewed as the coordinator of Teen Pregnancy Prevention ten years ago and was asked what I want to do in the next 5-10 years; my answer was that I wanted to be the director of a non-profit, and in five years ended up being the director of OCY. I meet Jane Hubbell (previous director of OCY and recently retiredassociate director at IIHHS) during the interview and felt I could learn a lot from her. She was a strong female that I really wanted to work with. The nature of what we do made me want to take on challenges and Jane gave me the space and experience to develop my leadership. I was ready for a new challenge when Jane was ready to move on so I became the director of OCY. At the time I was the Program Director for Teen Pregnancy Prevention and knew a lot about all the programs here so it was a good fit for me. Our team culture helped me to get to know all the programs—I had even driven the gus bus once a week for a few months when we were short on staff.
I love working here and have so much passion for what we do. My philosophy centers around youth as assets and the things they can–and already do–contribute to our community and society as a whole. Our work is to help them realize that, and connect them with other youth in a positive way. I do not think we need to wait for them to develop or go to college to contribute to the community. When people asked what I do, I’d say I work with teens and people would respond, “oh sorry,” but for me it’s great. I love to work with teens. I was talking with my mom once about reading books on the Gus Bus and how that made me nervous, but I can talk easily with teens.
JD: How have things changed since your beginnings at OCY?
KHW: I started here 10 years ago, when OCY was stillin a cottage. It was myself, Jane Hubbell, and one other staff person. We focused on teen pregnancy prevention (me) as well as a tobacco-free campaign. Not long after I started working we received a grant that made the Gus Bus possible and increased our staff. Then we moved to Blue Ridge Hall under JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services (IIHHS) and administered Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Gus Bus, and the Tobacco-free campaign. It was around that time when the Migrant Education Program decided they needed someone to work with the management of their grant and came to be under OCY. After we settled into this building we were awarded a 5-year TPP grant and added more staff. Shortly after this we were able to bring in Youth Suicide Prevention. At one time we had a Smart Beginnings Academy and there was a direct service there. Now I just help oversee Smart Beginnings but they are not directly related to the work of OCY.
Youth Council (YC) originally started as a sort of youth think tank in 1998, partly to address issues coming out of the Youth Data Survey. People came to talk with YC to get their opinions on their work with youth. It was revived and taken in a slightly different direction after the community assessment in 2007 affirmed a need for youth leadership and voice. They are working to develop leadership by assigning members roles and responsibilities and carrying out service projects. I heard recently that a YC member gave a PowerPoint presentation on a possible service project; this warmed my heart, and seemed like a good direction to be going. It is through YC we got involved with Strong Families Great Youth Coalition.
With new grants to support Teen Pregnancy Prevention and the Gus Bus we are now a staff of 16.
JD: What sort of work environment do you strive to create here at OCY?
KHW: The first thing is to cultivate a team culture. I think people need to know that their voice is valued and everyone has input. I like to laugh, and think that laughing and having fun should be an allowable thing in your work environment. Working with youth can be hard; individual and environmental change is slow with kids so there needs to be a space where people can share and have a sense of humor about their work. Everyone who works here is passionate about what they do. OCY has very dedicated people who take their work home with them. I always want people to feel that they can talk to me or whomever they need to so they can voice frustration.
Our team is open to do things in new ways and to always be improving ourselves and the services we provide. There is the freedom to try new projects and design something different and new that we can work on together, which is important.
JD: Where does your passion for working with youth come from? How have you cultivated and sustained this passion?
KHW: I had very encouraging family members that supported me and helped keep me on track so I could do well in college and beyond. Not every kid has that, and I personally want to put things and structures in place to help balance that out and offer support to kids who do not have it from their families. We need youth in the community to know that adults care about them and their success. My educational background is in public health where I focused on adolescent health. There are so many learned behaviors that happen during adolescence and if we can jump in and be there to give skills that help avoid creating bad behaviors, those youth can grow into healthyadulthood
Something that keeps me going is getting visits from teens I’ve worked with in the past that just stop by to say hi sometimes. A former Youth Council member was here a couple weeks ago looking to apply to jobs. The fact that she still comes by to visit me makes me feel like the work we do is important. Just her visit is enough for me to know that the connections we make are important. She has been out of school for a couple of years and still stops by to seek my guidance. Other students from Youth Council who stop by to say hello or leave little notes on my door make me happy. These are my connections, but we all have these connections and are making an impact and difference in young people’s lives.
JD: Why prioritize youth and children’s programming, research, and services?
KHW: To me, if the community had money to do anything, we should put it into children. This goes along with where my passion comes from. Prevention is the key to everything. There is research that shows that if kids aren’t on grade level reading by the age of 3 they are more likely to be in jail later in life. There are monetary savings for intervention and prevention. While we need programs that teach adults life skills, if we focus on children and youth we could eliminate a lot of the social programs needed later in life. If we cut anything, it should not be for youth. It’s cheesy to say, but children are the future.
JD: What’s needed to create and build healthy youth communities? And what is OCY’s role in building those healthy communities?
KHW: We need adults who are willing to put in time to volunteer and care for youth. Youth Council is in the evening. We make things easy for youth to participate, rather than convenient for adults. Some of the things we work on, say the rain garden project for example, we do because it was in a busy park where people can see youth doing good things for the community. The best thing about that project was when people walked by and saw young people doing something good and said “good job!” We need people in the community that can say “good job” to kids. You can see how that pat-on-the-back affects kids. Some of our role is facilitating that process; helping kids figure out what they want to do, put that out there, and helping adults see those good works so that kids feel affirmed and admired. Positive adult relationships are key. When we have so many single-family houses in our communityI think that’s what youth need–more positive adult relationships. We need to be able to talk about difficult topics like pregnancy, sex, drugs, and violence with youth and we need to help families and parents talk about this as well.
There are no bad kids. They may do bad things, but I think that’s the difference. I remember an interaction with a prevoius Youth Council member–before I developed a relationship with him—when I had to go to my office to get something and e didn’t believe I was going to trust him with the things I left with him. He said to me “I’m a bad person, you’re going to leave this stuff with me?” and I said “good people do bad things all the time.” When I came back he agreed that he didn’t have to be defined by the bad things he’s done. That’s related to being a parent too; my grandmother once said to me, don’t ever tell him (my son) that he is a bad boy, he may do bad things, but those things don’t define him.
JD: What are some of the organizational challenges you see in working with youth and children?
KHW: Money is always a challenge. Trying to find money that fits what we want to do rather than changing what we want to do to fit what funds are available can be difficult. We need to be able to pay people to carryout the programming that we provide. I think sometimes our work can be challenging to the community. Some of the things that we do may be considered taboo or controversial (Teen Pregnancy Prevention or Migrant Education for example). It’s a challenge to do what needs to be done if the community is resistant.
Another challenge is turnover. some people start out working with one of our programs, and through their time here learn they want to do something else. That’s a challenge; having good people leave to move on to other things, and then having to find new people with a similar skill set to fill their position.
A big organizational challenge is getting people and funders who have the money to understand that prevention is important. We are an outcome driven society and sometimes it is difficult to articulate our outcomes. It’s hard to measure prevention; it is a gradual process that happens over time.
JD: Is there any accomplishment or work of the OCY that you are particularly proud of?
KHW: I think within each program there are things I’m very proud of. Take the Gus Bus for example, at one point we were struggling day to day and were down to one staff member, but kept a presence until we got the 21st Century grant and have been able to do so much more. To have four Gus staff –which is more than we have ever had—and have both buses out every night of the week is a great thing.
Teen Pregnancy Prevention, where my passion and expertise lie, was an organization of one (me), and we didn’t even have supply money. We had a large five-year federal grant that ended as we were finally having some doors open. We were looking for a way to be able to reach thousands of kids and now we have that with our new funding where we will have programming (Teen Outreach Program ® and Draw the Line/Respect the Line) in practically every school. This is awesome to me.
JD: What does the future hold for OCY? What are you looking forward to?
KHW: Lot’s of things really. I’m looking forward to seeing how TOP ® is going to work for kids who have the chance to be part of it for multiple years. We have more staff, multi-year funding for several of the programs, and I am excited to see the difference we are going to have over time. I am interested in looking into mental health programs for youth that help encourage healthy mental behaviors and habits. Most kids when you ask about mental health, they say “what?” I’m excited about continuing Youth Council and excited to see where those youth end up in the future. What are some of the current YC members going to be involved with? I’m excited for that.
Our message has been getting out into the community as well through Facebook and our website which I think has been great. I am thankful for the staff. People really keep me going. Even though I amno longer out in schools and working directly with the children and youth that we serve, I hear stories from people and that’s important to me—to see staff faces when they are excited about something. We are really lucky to have a team of people that genuinely care about what they do. It’s more than just a job to us.
By Josh Diamond, Youth Council Coordinator
On June 6th, youth workers, parents, teachers, community members, and youth came out to a performance and discussion aimed at addressing teen pregnancy in our area. The event was held at the Lucy F. Simms Center and was a collaboration between the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council, OCY’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, Healthy Communities Council Teen Pregnancy Prevention Action Team, and JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services.
Youth experiences of the issue were centered and expressed trough poetry written and performed by Youth Council member-leaders. Youth Council created their poetry in the few months preceding the event, tackling issues of teen pregnancy and it’s effect on young people. The member-leaders performed their poems both individually and collectively, giving audience members a powerful glance into the struggles of teen parenting and the choices and consequences of teen sex and pregnancy.
These powerful performances anchored the dialogue to follow where participants addressed the issue. Laura Leischner, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Specialist “really enjoyed listening to the young people’s poetry during the program. Their words were deeply touching and overflowing with raw emotion. It reminded me that everyone has their own experiences with the issue of teen pregnancy and we need to continue the conversation around it; this event was an excellent start.”
Youth Council member-leaders played a crucial role in defining the topics of the event and in giving their perspective throughout. The space was a unique one that fostered genuine dialogue between youth close to the issue of teen pregnancy and adults hoping to make a difference in lowering local teen pregnancy rates.
Participants moved between dialogue sessions examining community-based efforts to prevent teen pregnancy, socio-cultural norms and expectations around teen pregnancy, messages received by youth about sex and pregnancy, as well as others. Thanks to all who came out for the event to engage and support young people taking leadership on an issue that affects the entire community.
A Community Conversation and Performance to Raise Awareness of Teen Pregnancy
Join us for youth poetry performances, youth-led, and intergenerational dialogue around teen pregnancy issues and prevention in our area. The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services and the Healthy Community Council Teen Pregnancy Prevention Action Team invite you to a performance and dialogue around teen pregnancy in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.
Do you work with young people? Are you a young person interested in teen pregnancy prevention and learning more about the issue? Come to this exciting event and engage the conversation on what can be done to prevent teen pregnancy in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. After a short youth performance on the issue community members and youth will break into smaller groups to discuss issues such as: socio-cultural norms around sex education and pregnancy prevention, local and state policy, how to talk about sex with youth and adults, and school culture around sex education. The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Youth Council will facilitate a youth only session addressing the difficulties and opportunities for youth in addressing teen pregnancy and youth sex education. Bring young people!
When: June 6th, from 6:00-8:30pm
Where: Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center
For more information contact Josh at email@example.com or 540-568-2571.
We cannot wait to see you there!
By Jenna Burke, OCY intern
On May 1st, 2013, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Healthy Community Council’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Action Team along with OCY’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention program promoted the National Day to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in five local high schools. The National Day brings to light the importance of preventing teen and unplanned pregnancy and parenting while creating dialogue with young people around consequences of sex. The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Action Team’s school visits and efforts centered around the theme and slogan, “Your Future’s Bright, What Will It Be Like?” to help teens visualize their future and the goals that motivate them to “stay teen.”
Every year for the National day, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy releases an interactive online quiz that allows students to create virtual identities—yourself, a crush, and your best friend—that takes students through various scenarios that challenge them to think carefully about the choices involving sex. This year, schools provided laptops for use during the Action Team’s presentations allowing students to take the quiz with their friends during lunch. Students also received pens and stickers for participating that feature messages concerning the consequences of sex.
In addition to the interactive quiz, an activity was prepared that promoted the event and encouraged student’s participation. Display boards included the slogan, “Your Future’s Bright, What Will It Be Like?” along with a suitcase where students hanged mock boarding passes stating future goals and aspirations. In addition, there were suitcases holding various items representing career choices for students—cooking materials, textbooks, sporting items, university materials, travel memorabilia, a high school diploma, and medical equipment. The goal of the activity was to get students to reflect on their futures and the motivating reasons to make healthy decisions around sex.
This year’s event reached hundreds of students at Broadway High School, Turner Ashby High, Spotswood High, East Rockingham High, and Harrisonburg High. Students shared openly their future goals and career aspirations. It was inspiring to meet students with such ambitious goals that ranged from owning a bakery, becoming a pathologist, attending Longwood University to become a teacher, and antique car restoration. It is important to remind, encourage, and admire the goals and dreams of teens. Keeping our youth focused on their aspirations supports them in making healthy decisions, thus helping prevent teen and unplanned pregnancy.
To learn more about the National Day to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy or to take the quiz visit http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/national/default.aspx
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This Spotlight features an interview between Youth Council coordinator Josh Diamond and Youth Council member-leader Valentin Sanchez. Read on to learn more about Youth Council–what they do and how they work–from the perspective of a youth member.
JD: Valentin, tell me a little about your self. What school do you go to? What do you like the most about living in Rockingham County?
VS: I go to turner Ashby. For fun, I get on the internet and watch YouTube videos to laugh at. I like to play games on my pc. Recently I got a new game, Minecraft.
Let’s see, I’ve lived in Rockingham County in National Coach since the fifth grade, and before then I lived in Harrisonburg City and went to Keister Elementary. I was six when I came to Harrisonburg from Mexico. I remember when I first got here it was very dramatic, hearing people speak a different language and look different.
I have met a lot more people in the county than the city. I only played with like two kids when I was in the city and when I moved to the county more kids would come and play with me. It’s much funer here. I got to meet a lot more people.
JD: When did you start attending Youth Council?
VS: I think it was during the winter of my freshman year. I am a junior now.
JD: What first attracted you to Youth Council?
VS: I heard about a lot of the interesting and fun stuff you did. I heard that there were rewards, or that usually when you did something good for the community you would then get to do something fun at the end of the month. I also knew people, like Pedro and Danny. I figured I could also get some community service hours early as well if I needed to get them in class in high school
JD: You’ve stayed for 3 years, what’s kept you?
VS: I come because there are new people every year coming from new places in the city and county and because of the experience that I get out of it. I like to meet new people and get to know them. It’s important to meet new people. Last week I talked a lot with a new person Nina, who I found out was in the same year as me at TA. I like helping people and getting thanked by the people that we work with.
JD: What makes Youth Council different from other youth groups or after school programs?
VS: I’m not entirely sure, I haven’t gone to many but it seems like everybody works together and seem to connect as a group. When I first came to the group everyone was very friendly and kind and was interested in talking to me.
JD: How do you work with adults in YC? What is that relationship like?
VS: When I first started there where three adults; Michael, Kim and Becky, then Courtney and you came. I met Natalie as well. Adults seem to be equally connected, and seem to respect each other. The adults seem to be interested in the members of Youth Council. I think the relationship is great. Adults talk to me when I first go there. In Youth Council we get a choice of what to do where youth can choose what you want to do.
JD: Will you tell me a little about what Youth Council is and does? Where do you meet and how often?
VS: We are a volunteer group of teens from different high schools in the county and the city and we all come together to work on service projects in the community. Sometimes we lead, and sometimes we are lead by adults. During our regular meetings we talk about upcoming events we might do, we share what we have done so far, and what we might do in the future. We talk about problems in the community, and what needs there are, and what we can do to fix it.
JD: What are some examples of projects you have participated in the past?
VS: The first one I did was a fundraiser for Haiti where we set up tents and then stayed in them for the night and we got money for each tent set up. We also went to a place where elderly people live to talk to them. We played games with them and they told us about their lives. We also laughed at the jokes they made. This year we went to a homeless shelter and helped clean up after we ate and talked with the people there. We helped set up the meal and at the end we made crafts and cards with the homeless there. We also built a rain garden at Purcell Park to help keep Blacks Run filtered and from getting dirtier. For the rain garden we put in mulch and planted some plants. Some people came up while we were doing this and thanked us. Before this we helped to clean up trash in Blacks Run.
JD: What is your favorite part about Youth Council?
VS: The rewards I guess. The fun stuff we do and being thanked for what we do. We go snow tubing, we have been camping (my favorite one so far). We went river tubing as well and played different games when we went camping. We also played Laser tag which we had lots of fun. Our team won almost every game.
JD: Why is volunteering important to you?
VS: I am thankful that I am here and it’s great that I am in this community and it would be better if I do something for the community. This is where I grew up so I want to do something for the community to make it better
JD: What has Youth Council done for you? What do you think you get out of it?
VS: It gives me new perspectives from new points of view. When we went to the homeless shelter I saw how people live their lives. I listened to them and learned that some of them are actually helping and that they are working on building a house with other people where they can live. I get skills; like when we helped take down a building and learned how to do that properly. I also learn how to socialize with people and learn a lot more about people.
JD: What are some important things you have learned by being a member of YC?
VS: Leadership skills. Eventually I may need to be part of a team and if no one is in charge there will need to be someone who can lead them and make sure they work together and can get through a dispute.
JD: Tell me about the most memorable moment you have of Youth Council.
VS: I would like to say when we did the Shades of Youth event. The teens got to share what they felt to the community and what they see in the community because sometimes they don’t get their opinions shared and feel like no one is listening to them.
JD: Why was that so important?
VS: Usually teens don’t get to choose, or are just told what to do. They have to constantly keep their grades and do what people what them to do and not what they want to do. We are still young and need a lot more experience to decide on things. Sometimes we are not taken seriously. I feel like we need a chance to show adults that we have opinions as well. We have some experience just not as much as other people have had.
JD: What would you say is special or unique about Youth Council?VS: I mean, this is the first volunteer group I’ve been in. I’ve heard of others like Young Life, but I can’t really say why it’s different. It feels like we are our own community in the group. We each have our own opinions and different experiences, so do the adults. We are diverse, they’re may be more of some people but we are all different. I mean what makes us a community is that we are a small group; if we were big we wouldn’t be able to communicate. As a small group we understand each other and in large groups people only stay with who they know and don’t learn about each other.
JD: Why is diversity important to you?
VS: If you are all the same then you all have the same opinion and do the same thing. If we are all the same opinion then we just take on things that are ourselves and can’t represent other cultures or other people if there is only one single type of culture.
JD: What does community mean to you?
VS: A community is a group of people that understand each other, that live in a place, and work together to meet each other’s needs. When they need something you are there to help them.
JD: Does this definition fit Youth Council?
VS: Yea. I mean sometimes we have trouble, but we figure it out. We may be apart, but we eventually get it back.
For more information on how to get involved in Youth Council contact Josh Diamond at firstname.lastname@example.org