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Latest Blog Post

How Youth Can Support the Ferguson-Florissant Community

St. Louis is our home. We have gone to clean up the streets of Ferguson during the day and supported peaceful protestors. Youth can and do make an impact.

One of our major goals is to inspire more young people to see themselves as positive changemakers and take action. We will provide funding to youth that are making a difference.

Please submit your ideas. Below please find examples.
1. Register voters and encourage young voters to vote
2. Teach children the art of peaceful conflict resolution
3. Create community-“get to know your neighbors” activities to promote peaceful conversations
4. Integrate the arts in your community and schools to explore and promote non-violence
5. Serve on committees and task forces working to promote safer neighborhoods, schools, college campuses and communities.
5. Get involved in your community-Many non-profits, like food banks operate on shoestring budgets, cover vast geographic areas, and are struggling to keep up with the demand for their service.

Please submit your ideas on how we can promote peace in the St. Louis Metropolitan community and the greater world: http://bit.ly/peaceinferg

Keds Brave Life Summit

It has been three days since I attended the Keds Brave Life Summit and my head and my heart are still swirling. Arriving in New York, I had no idea what to expect from the experience and I felt tings of nervousness and gratitude for the experience.

The plane ride from Georgia to New York gave me some time to think. I thought about my future as late as what I would do after retirement or would I be one of those workers who never retired and my future as near as the summit and what I hoped to get out of the experience. I even thought about the distant past of three years ago when I had last been in New York shortly after my mother passed away and the more recent past of when I almost did not send in an application for the summit because I did not think that I would get accepted. 

A lot had changed with this time and I am sure that a lot more will change in the future. I took away so many things from the summit, but my biggest lesson had to me my realization that all the tools that I needed to succeed were inside me. We hear speakers all the time tell us all time the old cliché of how we are in charge of our destiny and how we are the ones who can change the world. I can guess that many of us do not believe this although this is what we are taught and that is the decision we make.

After the summit, I decided to take this advice and apply it to all that I do. I decided to not be the one who gets in my own way. I decided to be brave.

Splish Splash Swim Clinic

I am a high school swimmer in Indiana and a VolunTEEN Nation Ambassador. On Saturday, August 9th, I organized a swim clinic for youth on the Autism spectrum and youth with Down syndrome. It was a blast! We had ten special Olympic athletes and ten volunteer swim instructors. We played water games and had pizza and cupcakes for lunch. In the end, the smile on everyone’s face during the event justified the bumpy road we traveled to make this event happen. I learned three important things from planning this service project.

1. Be persistent! When planning a project, remember there is always a solution to problem even if it takes lots of time to find one! At many points during the project planning process, I was ready to cancel the event several times due to various issues. For example, when I was looking for a pool manager to supervise the clinic, I had a tough time finding someone since this project was two days before the start of school. I was nervous and started to worry. After several discussions with the pool facility director, we decided to ask one of the swim instructors to act as the pool manager. Problem solved! The event occurred without a hitch.

2. Have fun at your service project! Both the volunteers and youth had an amazing time during the clinic. During the clinic, I worked with a girl named Maggie. I witnessed so many smiles on her face as we swam laps together. Her excitement during the clinic was certainly contagious.

3. Social media is powerful! VolunTEEN Nation helped us promote the event and gather volunteers and youth attendees. Lee Lonzo from IHSAA (Indiana High School Athletic Association) came to the event and posted lots of photos from the clinic on Twitter and Facebook. These photos were shared by our swim club and other related organizations.

This swim clinic offered so much to both the Special Olympic swimmers and volunteers. I certainly want to plan another swim clinic. There are a lot of big challenges around the world. To make my community a better place, I want to make an impact using my skill sets and interests.

Growing a Garden and Giving Back

Today I donated 10 more pounds of cucumbers to my local food pantry from my backyard garden. I think the cucumbers are taking over my garden this year. I was lucky enough to be one of 31 grantees to receive funding from Katie's Krops, an incredible non-profit organization. Selected from over 170 applicants, I am now one of more than 75 inspirational youth nationwide growing vegetable gardens to end hunger. Through the local food pantry, my garden has provided more than 50 pounds of fresh cucumbers to the underserved this summer. In addition, when we were donating produce today, we also had the amazing experience of giving the food to the underserved in the community. 

When I was making my first donation to the pantry with my mom, they noticed that my mom was fluent in both English and Chinese, and I was half fluent in Chinese (and fluent in English). Every Friday when they give the food out at the pantry, they serve some people who speak only Chinese and no English. These individuals do not understand what the leader is saying, what the food is, or how much they can take; so they asked my mom and I if we could come to the pantries on Friday to translate. Without a doubt we took the opportunity.

This week, we went to the food panty and my mom translated everything to the fluent Chinese speakers. I helped at the baked goods station. It was a good thing my mom and I were at the right place at the right time because one Chinese couple thought an clear orange/brown cleaning solution was apple juice. Another Chinese lady had diabetes so she needed some food that did not have much sugar, so I helped her find a pie with no sugar, some bread with no sugar, and some other foods as well. 

Not only did we help translate for the Chinese speakers, we also helped many others. We helped people find healthy food options and showed them where everything was. I had a great time volunteering at the food pantry and I hope to go back as many times as I can to help. Thank you Katie’s Krops for helping me connect to my local food pantry!

Teens Taking Action

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead. This thought really struck home for two sophomores who had a passion for volunteering in their community. In the spring of 2013, Morgan and Rachael started a service club called Teens Taking Action at their high school in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The club is focused on counteracting poverty in the Twin Cities through volunteer work at local organizations. 

They wanted to give students an opportunity to volunteer more regularly in order to spread volunteerism in their community. Members of the service club choose to volunteer at organizations and causes they are passionate about. The service club as four main issues they take action against: hunger, homelessness, lack of necessities and aiding in healthy community relations, in order to counteract poverty. 

The club meets every month during the school year and strives to complete at least two volunteering projects each month. What began as a small group of 15 friends has grown to more than 50 members. The club even completes volunteer projects during the summer. Some examples of organizations they have volunteered with include Second Harvest Heartland, HandsOn Twin Cities, The Sandwich Project, ICA Food Shelf, Salvation Army, and Caring for Cambodia, Cheerful Givers, The Humane Society, Operation Gratitude and Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly. 

However, the club’s biggest accomplishment was receiving a grant from the organization Katie’s Krops to start their very own vegetable garden, where all the vegetables harvested would be donated to their local ICA food shelf. Over 170 applicants applied for Katie’s Krops 2014 Grant Cycle and Teens Taking Action was one of the 31 grantees to receive funding. Teens Taking Action also received donations of seeds and plants from a local greenhouse and their city also donated a 20 X 20 plot for them to grow on. They began planting in mid May and the garden has been flourishing since. Each week this summer the garden switches hands from various members. Two to three members will take care of the garden for a week. Responsibilities for managing the garden include weeding, watering, and if there is produce, delivering it to ICA Food Shelf. 

Morgan and Rachael, the founders of Teens Taking Action, are so thankful for the wonderful support from their members, as well as the support from their club advisor, community, and Katie’s Krops. 

Interested in learning more about Teens Taking Action’s service projects follow them on Twitter @TTA_MHS.