Tips & Advice
- 10 November 2013
- by Megan Foo
Harnessing the creativity and energy of youth, has never been more important than it is in this age of advancement. Our youth populace, which forms the pool of principal stakeholders of our globalized, ever-innovating society, is an essential asset to the betterment of our world as we know it. Today, more than ever before, young people play a critical role in shaping major social and political developments, be it by voting in nationwide congressional elections or blogging on news outlets about global issues that pique their interests. The philanthropic sphere has also seen a rise in youth participants; embodying extraordinary dynamism and strength, teenagers around the world are not only taking part in service activities, but also starting organizations and local chapters to create sustainable solutions to deep-rooted societal problems.
Dr. Julie Turner, Assistant Professor and Department Chair of Nonprofit Administration at Lindenwood University, believes fervently in leveraging the power of youth to change the world. Dr. Turner and members of the Nonprofit Administration Program at Lindenwood University have recently created a free workshop, Serve U, to help high school students access and respond to community needs. Passionate about encouraging the next generation of social entrepreneurs and effective philanthropists, Dr. Turner notes that it was the prolonged attempt to find the optimal way to connect with high school students about “the viability of working in the nonprofit sector” that provided the original impetus for the workshop’s design.
When asked about the importance of teaching high school students about the nuts and bolts of the nonprofit sector, Dr. Turner emphasized the value of nonprofits in communities: “What I want young people to know about nonprofits is how very valuable they are to all of our communities, how they often address the issues that many either don’t want to pay to see fixed or can’t take it on due to its scope.” Indeed, nonprofit organizations, remarkable fulcrums of our social machinery, not only form the backbone of our economy but also constitute a vital part in all of our lives. The fantasy of tackling complex world problems, which is at the heart of every philanthropic organization, can only be transmuted to reality at the hands of what Dr. Turner dubs “smart, capable and highly passionate individuals” with personal skills and nonprofit management experience that Serve U aims to hone.
Serve U’s mission is to equip youth with the skills necessary to run a successful nonprofit: assessing community need, developing a programmatic response, recruiting a Board of Directors, establishing a mission statement, identifying costs, resourcing efforts, and measuring outcomes. Identifying a variety of developmental issues ranging from single parent households, to violence in schools, to educational disparity, Serve U’s simulation comes replete with ethical dilemmas and myth busters to enrich high school students’ learning experiences and let them understand the nonprofit process in a tangible way. Described by Dr. Turner as a workshop with a “fun, high-energy delivery model”, Serve U’s objective is to help students “understand the importance of asking the right questions, seeking the right data, and the value of benchmarking”.
To Dr. Turner, inspiration does not have to be manifested in “big, sweeping” gestures, and can take the form of “that little extra effort that you put forth intentionally to be good to others”. Our perception of volunteerism is often diluted to traveling to a developing world region and tutoring impoverished students, when in fact, some of the most meaningful service work we can do can take place in our own communities. Another myth that Dr. Turner hopes to debunk through Serve U? That nonprofit organizations are always 100% volunteer-run and bereft of paid jobs in the sector.