Natalie’s Story: From Shy to Leader

Natalie DeFour (Alpena) (1)

As the YVC director I have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of Youth Volunteers. One youth, Natalie, has been a constant inspiration and breath of fresh air since my inception with the program 4 years ago.

Natalie came to YVC looking to branch out and be more active in the community. She understood the value of giving back at a much earlier timeframe than most of her classmates.

Natalie struggles with extreme shyness. This may not sound like a debilitating hindrance, but it really held her back from opening up and getting to know individuals. As a director I wanted to see her flourish and be more comfortable in a group setting and have her voice heard. Natalie is a straight A student that has a lot of great things to say, but still had not learned how to use her voice. Through icebreaker and reflection activities Natalie was eventually put in situations before and after each project where she would have to share her thoughts and feelings. She slowly started to break out of her shell and actively engage in discussion.

Natalie is now a senior in high school and has earned the Volunteer of the Year Award performing over 400 hours of community service and the Youth of Year Award. She has earned the Presidential Service Award-Silver Medallion with her volunteer work. She now gives public speeches to community leaders, classmates, board members, and administrators from the area. She is the President of the YVC Youth Advisory Council and talks openly to new and potential members about the benefit of the program. Natalie DeFour (Alpena) (2)She actively recruits with me and her voice is now being heard. There are so many wonderful things that she can let out. She has opened up others through her words and turned them on to volunteerism.

She attributes working with YVC as her outlet to express herself and credits the staff for allowing her to grow and have her voice heard. Teaching youth the skills to express themselves is a crucial part of the job and Natalie has not disappointed. She is a great asset to the YVC program and has really become my strongest leader and most vocal advocate, learning that being heard in the community is an important aspect to becoming a great leader and role model.

This story was originally published as part of the 2012 YVC Transformative Story Grant. YVC of Alpena, Michigan, received a $1,000 grant for their story, written by Brad Somers, Executive Director of YVC of Alpena.

Do you have a story about YVC’s impact on your life? Email Lacey at lhelmig@yvc.org to share your story.