Spotlight on: YVC of Muskogee
With each Youth Volunteer serving an average of 79 hours a year, YVC of Muskogee, OK, is a glowing example of a “small but mighty” Youth Volunteer Corps program. 64 Youth Volunteers served a grand total of 5,070 hours last year, making YVC of Muskogee number one of YVC’s across the nation in terms of average hours served per volunteer.
Service that Exceeds Expectations
What inspires these youth to continue volunteering after their first service project? For many, it’s the discovery that the experience they gain while serving with their local YVC reaches far beyond their initial assumptions.
“Volunteering is really rewarding. I was able to form bonds with people in the community and help them in ways that I never imagined I could,” says Kayla Russell, a current volunteer with YVC of Muskogee.
“Serving with YVC is also very eye-opening,” says Phylisia Mayfield, a Youth Volunteer graduate who now serves as an assistant Team Leader. “When I first started volunteering I didn’t give much thought to the impact I could make, but then I felt like I was actually making a difference.”
Volunteering has not only allowed these youth to make a positive difference in the lives of various individuals in their community, but it has also made an impact in their own lives.
“Serving with YVC gives you something important to do over the summer that will allow you to gain more life experiences and can even help when deciding your career path,” says Phylisia, who continues to volunteer at Camp Bennett, a camp for children and adults with special needs. Through this volunteer experience, she developed a passion for working with kids with special needs and was inspired to change her major to special education.
An Engaging Experience
YVC of Muskogee has found Camp Bennett to be one of the most popular projects among youth volunteers.
“It is a special environment,” says YVC of Muskogee Director Eileen Van Kirk. We are honored to have so many youth serving with the campers each summer, since each volunteer must go through an interview process and be personally selected by the camp’s director.”
Youth Volunteers serving with Camp Bennett have the opportunity to engage with the campers through activities such as swimming, bowling, archery and horseback riding. The volunteers form friendships with the campers, make memories, and, on occasion, receive marriage proposals.
“It was the last week of adult camp at Camp Bennett and one of the campers gave the Team Leader a note for me. It said ‘Will you merry me. Yes? No?’ The camper had put it in an envelope and signed his name on it and sealed it. It’s now in my scrapbook,” Kayla says. “You get to build awesome relationships with the campers, then you see them in the community and they want to come give you a hug.”
Creating Better Citizens
The impact YVC of Muskogee has on the surrounding community is widespread, with volunteers working with various organizations and programs, such as Volunteers of America, a national nonprofit, or Project Transformation, a literacy program. Since YVC of Muskogee is hosted by the local Parks and Recreation department, they are able to provide a great programming option for teens who may not be involved in other Parks programs.
“Instead of a program that provides services, we’re a program that grows citizens. We teach them to be a better citizen, to learn more about their community and get involved. We have high quality projects and they give people something to talk about,” Eileen says. “In regards to Parks and Recreation programs, we are able to pick up the slack for a variety of projects, making us an important asset. We really stretch the ability of the different agencies and programs.”
For example, on one such occasion the City of Muskogee was opening a new park with an ice skating rink, and had scheduled a grand opening ice skating event. They ordered hundreds of ice skates, but the order was delayed and didn’t arrive until the day before the grand opening. When they opened the boxes, they realized the skates weren’t laced, which could have led to a crisis. However, since YVC of Muskogee is a part of the local Parks and Recreation, Eileen easily mobilized the Youth Volunteers to lace the skates just in time for the grand opening.
Volunteering and Fun Go Together
While many projects allow the volunteers to form relationships with community members, and on occasion may be emotional, YVC of Muskogee volunteers have discovered the importance of having fun in all that they do.
“We have to find the humor in everything that we’re doing,” Eileen says. “We work really hard, but it’s still important to have inside jokes and be able to remember the silly things that happened while volunteering.”
Kayla has learned that, in addition to discovering the joys of serving, those who volunteer with YVC of Muskogee often become role models in the community. “You can show people that they can make an impact like you are, and have fun while doing so,” she says.
YVC of Muskogee has a mighty team of Youth Volunteers, and they continue to grow and become even more so an integral part of the community. The program not only inspires youth to a lifetime of dedication to service, but allows them to form impactful relationships with each other.
“When youth are involved with YVC they know they are part of a community and it gives them a sense of identity beyond high school,” Eileen says. “It is great to see many different types of people from different nationalities and backgrounds finding their commonalities within the purpose of doing our projects.”
Ready to tour some other YVC programs? Check out our previous Spotlights on Baton Rouge, Racine, St. George, Western Connecticut, Alpena, Anderson County, Ann Arbor, and Corvallis.
Don’t miss a single story of youth changing the world! Sign up for our monthly newsletter here:
Share this post: