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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.

Celebrate Green Times

Interacting with nature is a part of our everyday life. Whether it is going out and sleeping under the stars, or a nice view from an apartment window, we all have experienced nature in positive ways. National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is dedicated to celebrating those positive experiences and the 600 million acres of public lands in the U.S. “Whether it’s going to parks, community gardens, or a local lake, we all have these experiences that tie us to these special places,” says Anna Wadhams, manager of National Environmental Education Foundation’s Public Lands Program . “We never have the time to take a day and celebrate the fact that these sites are available to us.”  

This is exactly what NPLD wants to help with. Held on September 27, NPLD holds thousands of events all over the United States. Through service teams lead by site managers, it is estimated around 18 million dollars’ worth of volunteer service is contributed on this day. These activities aren’t just cleaning up parks and the picking the litter up on the side of the road either. These activities range from that to community gardens, events like concerts, and even educating the public. “[NPLD] shows how diverse our public lands are across the country.”

It is basically a time to band together and celebrate that which supports us. “I see, for a lot of young people, a fantastic opportunity through National Public Lands Day, to give back to a site they have visited countless times before.” It doesn’t matter how you have interacted with the site (sport event, hangout, or family reunion), that site has given you an area designated to you. By making sure that it stays beautiful and healthy you help insure that it will be just as nice for someone else. 

Getting involved in NPLD is a great to volunteer and have fun. There are many ways to participate and organize different service projects. By attending or organizing your own NPLD event, you are eligible to be nominated for a Volunteer of the Year award and can enter a photo contest to win fun prizes! These are a few ways volunteers are awarded for their participation in NPLD.

If you want to know more about NPLD or want to find an event near you visit their website or Facebook page. Interested in organizing your own NPLD event? Sign up and register today! We hope to see you outside on September 27!

Teens Teach Tech

Without an ocean, land-locked in the Midwest, teen volunteers in St. Louis help seniors dive in and learn how to surf the internet, use smartphones, digital cameras, grasp social media, and access Skype. The idea to offer free basic tech training to senior citizens was ignited when my own grandparents struggled with their mobile phones and learning how navigate the Internet. I realized that youth could fulfill a critical and valuable role helping senior citizens adapt to technology. Teen volunteers could provide both individualized and group workshops on the basics of using mobile phones, digital cameras, social media and Skype.

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Helping Kids Do Good

Passionate about volunteering, I can affirm that service has offered me so much - namely valuable collaborative skills, the courage to lead fundraising initiatives, and a deep-rooted interest in helping others realize their rights and potential. Above all, my service experiences have imbued me with a lifelong belief; the belief that I can make a difference in the world here and today. I need not wait, in the words of William Butler Yeats, to strike when the iron is hot, but instead make it hot by striking. 

But what about the people who are unable to strike the iron due to a lack of resources and funding? Wouldn’t the sonorous cadence that emanates from struck iron then be muted? Wouldn’t the reservoir of great promise that is youth volunteerism regrettably dry up? Mac Winslow, Co-Founder and President of Start A Snowball, understands this quandary and resourcefully tries to eliminate it. With the mission of inspiring and providing funding for youth to engage in their own service projects, Start A Snowball hopes to help youth amplify their voices on their service activities, and let exemplary project ideas come to fruition through grants. The hope is that youth will acquire an understanding of the power of service, which will engender a dynamic culture of volunteer mobility that extends to their adult lives.

Mac Winslow and the rest of the Start A Snowball community believe that “in order to improve the world and tackle the problems facing our society, we need to build a culture of service and a generation of givers. To do this, we have to start with children”. Mac’s oldest son provided the momentum for Start A Snowball’s founding by spearheading “a week-long food drive” that reached a pinnacle when he collected approximately 1400 pounds of food and over $300 so that students in his school and their families could be properly fed over Spring Break. “We were inspired by the impact one child with a little support could have on a problem that concerned him. We believe that all children have this ability inside of them, and we want to help them realize it,” Mac asserts, with a veracity that could not radiate more brightly. 

Indeed, an investment in youth volunteerism produces manifold returns. The independence to effect change around an issue that speaks volumes to them, the exposure to meaningful leadership experiences and the development of a sense of community are only three of these dividends. Youth certainly have limitless potential, and should they be armed with the adequate resources, they can make the difference of tomorrow, today. Since Start A Snowball’s launch in February this year, it has supplied grants for projects including fundraising projects to raise classroom and dental supplies for children in Haiti, anti-bullying campaigns, book drives, and teen volunteer programs working with the elderly. In Mac’s words, “We want to encourage and fund projects that are going to make a difference [...] and of course they need to be led by kids”. 

In addition to applying for service grants, youth can get involved with Start A Snowball by utilizing “the resources on [Start A Snowball’s] website to identify ideas and opportunities for community service”. They can also be part of the movement to further volunteer dynamism among youth by spreading the word about Start A Snowball and its grants. “We live in a social media driven society, and we need youth and adults alike to spread the word about what we are doing, and build a groundswell of support and grant applicants,” Mac advocates. Start A Snowball also wants to hear about other stories of youth doing good in their communities. “We ask people to come to our site to share their inspiring stories; we can use them to inspire others.”

Marian Wright Edelman once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” This infectious spirit of volunteerism and giving is deeply embedded in Start A Snowball’s DNA. Its future is optimistic, and Mac hopes that the organization will be able to “provide 160 grants in 2014 and 800 by the year 2018.” Ultimately, Start A Snowball is on pace to fostering a generation of devoted givers, and is relentless in its mission to secure for the world a brighter tomorrow through the powerful vehicle of youth volunteerism. If you are interested in getting involved with Start A Snowball, please contact Mac at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Sports-for-All Clinic

Host a youth-led Sports-For-All Clinic for youth on the autism spectrum in your community.

Passion for sports?  Promote fitness in your community by hosting a Sports-For-All Clinic. VolunTEENnation.org can provide you with funding, support and guidance to host your own sports clinic for youth on the autism spectrum. All children need to exercise and benefit from participating in sports programs. For children living with autism, fitness can be challenging, since many communities lack recreational and athletic programs for youth on the autism spectrum. To date over 1,500 youth and young volunteers have volunteered and participated in our Sports-For-All programs throughout the nation. Exercise programs help improve children’s hand-eye coordination, their motor skills and their ability to focus. In addition, the sports clinics provide opportunities for both the participants and the parents for socializing during the sports clinics. Our grant can help fund the facility rental, healthy snacks, promotional fliers and/or equipment costs.

Background/History: In 2011. Our young neighbors interest in a tennis racket was the motivation for us to create a social and recreational opportunity for youth on the autism spectrum. There are very few extracurricular outlets for youth on the autism spectrum. Our nine-year-old twin neighbors, Max and Charlie, are on the autism spectrum. They would see us carrying our tennis rackets to school each morning during the high school tennis season and ask questions. Since both boys were intrigued by our tennis rackets, we asked their parents if we could provide them with tennis lessons. The boys’ parents welcomed the idea and shared that there were limited physical, social and recreational opportunities for youth on the autism spectrum. My siblings and I realized that other youth with special needs would also benefit from free sports clinics. We reached out to area high school tennis teams and reserved tennis courts to offer our first free tennis clinic in 2011. The children and volunteers return eager and enthusiastic to participate in each program. There was a tremendous outpouring of interest from area high school students to volunteer which allowed us to provide individualized instruction for each child. The overwhelming interest and support for the free tennis clinic inspired us to also offer soccer and basketball clinics for youth on the autism spectrum.

VolunTEENnation.org is a non-profit corporation formed to inspire, engage and activate youth to get involved and volunteer in the community. We provide grants to implement sports programs for youth with special needs led by youth volunteers. If interested in applying for a grant you will need to complete an online grant application and email your request with two letters of reference on official school or group letterhead with the reference’s contact information. One letter must be from your school coach or community recreation supervisor that is willing to host the event and the other may be from your principal, adult advisor, and/or local Autism Support Group.

Apply for grant to host a Sports-For-All Clinic online: http://bit.ly/Sports4AllGrant