Looking back, the stars aligned perfectly for me to begin my service with YVC when I was in 7th grade. My social studies class was having a debate with the topic “should volunteer hours be required to graduate high school?” Naturally, I was on the affirmative side! The particular class that I was in met for the beginning of class, broke for lunch, and then finished our class period after lunch. On the exact day of our debate YVC representatives were in the cafeteria recruiting for the upcoming summer! I took this opportunity not only to sign up for service, but also to invite all of my classmates to join me! Little did I know a lifelong relationship to service would be sparked in the cafeteria of my middle school.
My first service experience was at a local camp for children with a variety of disabilities. One morning we were playing a game of kickball with campers when Jessica* didn’t want to participate. Jessica always carried a special doll with her, and I had the idea to tell her the doll wanted to go up to bat! I had the doll kick the ball and run the bases, which inspired Jessica to join in! Doug and Lisa, two of the staff members, asked me afterwards how I had thought to do that. It was a very instinctive choice that I couldn’t explain very well… but, their reactions made me feel like I might have a special skill or talent in working with people, especially those who may need special accommodation. I went on to volunteer at camp for almost every summer until I graduated high school, when I was hired to work as a lifeguard! Even now, I visit camp every summer and see many of the campers that I’ve grown up with.
I can look back in my life and recall the moment with Doug and Lisa as a springboard for me. Their confidence in me as a capable person and their support was a foundation for me to set high goals for myself. Because of my YVC experience at camp, I knew I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to study while I was there! I ended up changing my mind several times, which in the end worked out wonderfully. While I was in college, my experience volunteering at camp really prepared me up for success in collaborating, taking direction from others, and finding a common purpose within communities. I’m so grateful for the lifelong friendships, the experience afforded me, and the many doors of opportunity that were opened because of YVC. I am also thankful for my mentors and guides through life. They watched me grow up at camp and helped me become the person I am today.
“Compassion is not a virtue — it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have — it’s something we choose to practice.” -Brené Brown
Kaite Young-Kendall grew up on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan in Muskegon, Michigan. She earned her Bachelors of Applied Arts in Child Development from Central Michigan University and has since worked in a variety of roles with children such as a full time National Service member with AmeriCorps in a Head Start, with the Children’s Defense Fund program Freedom School and currently is an early childhood educator at the North Campus Children’s Center and the Children’s Program Coordinator for local nonprofit, Friends In Deed. Kaite has a deep passion for serving toddlers and their families, as well as supporting families with anti-poverty education. Most recently she presented at the Learning Stories conference in Orange County, California. Kaite is looking forward to starting a Master of Social work program at Eastern Michigan University in the fall. Kaite resides in Ypsilanti, Michigan with her partner, Tim, puppy, Lola Jean, and cat, Kim.