This fall, KYC was thrilled to specially recognize the extraordinary efforts of two dedicated volunteers as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year and the 2019 Young Volunteer of the Year, a new award to celebrate a youth volunteer. Each of their contributions has helped shape the course of KYC’s programming as they worked to provide better outcomes for our community members.
2019 Young Volunteer of the Year: Faith!
A year ago, Faith was a new student at Conant, having just moved to Illinois from Tennessee. Then a sophomore, she knew she wanted to get involved in her new school and her new community. Kenneth Young Center’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) happened to be recruiting for new members at the same time that Faith was in search of new opportunities. She talked with KYC staff, learned more about the YAC, and decided to go to her first meeting.
She learned that members of the YAC participate in prevention efforts and local policy implementation processes that are intended to decrease substance use rates among youth. Although she had never worked on any substance use prevention projects before, she immediately felt that she would be able to make an impact, and that her voice would truly be heard. One year and lots of hard work later, KYC couldn’t be more proud of the incredible work that she has done and the great things she has helped the YAC and her fellow students to accomplish.
Making An Impact
The YAC creates anti-substance use campaigns that target a number of different substances, but Faith has been especially passionate about the work she’s doing to prevent vaping among her peers. She feels that vaping has become a huge epidemic, and she knows that this is a true challenge that people are facing right here, in her school, and in her community. Although she hasn’t lived here for long, she has taken great steps towards making her new home a little bit healthier for everyone.
Through her experience with the YAC, Faith has quickly learned steps that can lead to decreased substance use, how to educate the community to help solve these issues, and how to implement the resources that are needed to support healthy choices. Faith and other students who work on the anti-vaping campaign partner with administrators at their schools and leaders in the community to develop and implement strategies that resonate with young people. Their strategies have proven successful in large part because their campaigns are designed collaboratively, with members of their targeted age demographic – students – leading the charge.
This is something that Faith recognizes as a powerful opportunity. As a young person in the YAC, her opinions are sought, her insight is valued, and her advice is translated directly into the action plans for YAC campaigns. She feels surrounded by a supportive team of people all working to make a difference. She is energized by the group’s planful focus on action, and she gets to witness first-hand the impact that her work has on her peers.
In addition to her drive to create healthier communities as a whole, Faith is also passionate about leadership development, both for herself and among her peers.
One of Faith’s favorite opportunities that has been offered to her through the YAC was her chance to attend a CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) training convention. There, she learned how to create successful anti-substance use campaigns. Perhaps even more importantly, she felt that she was automatically treated as a leader from the moment she arrived at CADCA. This experience helped her learn about herself and hugely expanded her leadership skills. She continues to strengthen those skills and maintains an image of herself as a leader through her work with the YAC.
Faith also works to inspire and educate her peers through the school club that she founded – the Black Leader Achievers (BLA) club. She saw a need for a student club focused on leadership development, and a need for a club focused on black education and culture. She decided to found a group that combined the two, and created the BLA. Faith had a personal drive to start this club, too. She feels that her mother and grandmother taught her how to be confident when she has an opinion, which Faith recognizes as an invaluable lesson. Now Faith wants to ensure that her fellow students all have a chance to learn this, and is passing along that drive through the BLA.
Faith enjoys learning, growing, and making an impact. She doesn’t think of her volunteerism as work – she’s just doing what she likes doing, and she wants to share it with others. Her goal is to educate other others about how to be healthier, how to grow in leadership, and how to find opportunities to do good things. She encourages anyone interested in volunteering to just go for it – test it out, take new opportunities, and don’t be afraid to move on to something new if you don’t find the right fit right away.
Kenneth Young Center and the YAC are thrilled that Faith has chosen to share her time and talents with us, and congratulate her once again on being named the 2019 Young Volunteer of the Year!
Are you looking for an opportunity to make an impact as a volunteer? Check out Kenneth Young Center’s Volunteer roles here! Learn more about the YAC and the Communities for Positive Youth Development (CPYD) Coalition here.
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