YVC Team Leaders: Superheroes

Here’s an insider’s secret: Sometimes on YVC projects, things don’t go according to plans. Bad weather cancels the plan to plant a community garden, the nature center doesn’t have enough rakes for the whole group to help smooth out the hiking trail, or the daycare center has to put the kids down for an early nap instead of having more time to play with YVC Youth Volunteers.

One of YVC’s four goals is to engage youth in service projects that are challenging, rewarding and educational. Studies have shown  if a youth’s first experience with volunteering isn’t positive, they can be turned off from service forever.

We do everything here at YVC to make sure that doesn’t happen. Luckily, we have some superheroes on our side: YVC Team Leaders. They work to make sure that no change of plans interferes with a Youth Volunteer’s service experience so that youth always feel that their time is valuable to the agencies they’re serving. Like any good superheroes, though, they’re stealthy. They work to make sure the Youth Volunteers never even knew  a problem popped up.

Earlier this summer, two of these superheroes swooped down to save the day on what could have been a difficult project. Here’s what happened:

10 Youth Volunteers showed up at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning at an early childhood daycare center. The group’s assignment was to work with the children enrolled in a summer camp program, so they were expecting to play with a large group of children. However, the group was surprised to find that only four kids showed up for the camp. The organization also didn’t have any activities planned for these kids.

Luckily, YVC makes sure that trained superheroes (aka YVC Team Leaders) are on every project. In this case, two superheroes were on the scene to make sure that the 10 YVC Youth Volunteers had a transformative volunteer experience. Chelsea and Clara immediately took the reins and began creating activities for the YVC volunteers and the kids.

They rescued that first day by playing “every childhood game imaginable” (Clara’s words), and they all had a blast. At the end of that day, the daycare staff told the YVC group and kids that they’d be going to a small water park the next day. The YVC volunteers were just as thrilled as the kids.

The next day, everyone arrived wearing their bathing suits, carrying a beach towel and excited to go to the water park. When they arrived at the water park, it was closed. The superheroes knew how disappointed the kids would be, so they made the best of it and created their own water fun outside the daycare center. The group played with water balloons and had a great time splashing and getting soaked.

Chelsea and Clara also took advantage of the lack of programming to let the YVC youth serve as leaders and form a program for the kids the rest of the week. Instead of just serving as playmates, they were able to serve as teachers and camp counselors by planning and leading all the activities.

They led an art day and created some artwork of their own, and the YVC volunteers also led the daycare kids in a service project: they assembled craft kits for children who are in the hospital.

The YVC Youth Volunteers were so sad when the final day arrived. They had to say goodbye to their new younger friends, and they were already requesting another YVC project at this daycare. Because of the superhero feats of the YVC Team Leaders, the Youth Volunteers had no idea that this project didn’t go as originally planned.

Imagine if these youth had signed up to volunteer in this situation and the YVC Team Leaders weren’t there to keep things organized. It’s likely the entire project would have been cancelled. No one would have had a transformative service experience, and those new friendships wouldn’t have been formed. Instead, four kids had the most awesome week meeting cool older youth and having a blast together, and 10 youth have life-long memories of how they can make a difference in a child’s life.

Thank you to all the YVC Team Leaders who serve as everyday superheroes to make sure that every YVC project—no matter what happens—is a positive experience for youth that hopefully encourages them to keep serving time and time again.*

 

A huge thanks to Clara Hernandez, a Bank of America Student Leader with YVC of Greater Kansas City, for telling her story!

*And these superheroes really must have superpowers because 96% of youth who volunteer with YVC say they’ll volunteer again in the future.