According to a recent Associated Press – GfK poll, volunteering was the only civic activity that adults under 30 were just as likely to rate as very important as older people. This is a positive sign for our immediate and long-term future, if we can continue to nurture volunteering and community engagement among young people. Volunteering can bring about new experiences and genuine connections that can alter the way youth think about their world and approach problems, while honing their capacity to recognize the things they have in common with people who may seem very different from them.
That’s why United Way is partnering with the National Youth Leadership Council to co-host “More Powerful Together”, the 2015 National Service-Learning Conference, April 8-11, 2015, in Washington, DC this April. The conference attracts students (and the adults that work with them) from around the world who care deeply about their communities. Through workshops on topics covering every stage of the service-learning process and issue engagement, attendees are able to develop the skills and strategies to address the problems that matter the most to them, while networking with others who share the same passions and goals. The conference gives United Way the opportunity to leverage our volunteer engagement activities with hundreds of other efforts and to connect with and support volunteer engagement among the students themselves.
The partnership is natural because there are many young people who are passionate about service and bettering their communities, and United Ways are engaging them in new and exciting ways. Every summer in Frederick, Maryland, for example, United Way of Frederick County organizes Summer Serve, where students spend a couple of weeks volunteering and becoming familiar with the region’s nonprofits and the issues they address. In Indianapolis, United Way of Central Indiana coordinates Youth Leadership United, accepting applications from high school students who want to become more deeply involved in the community and are interested in learning about serving on nonprofit boards. At many locations, United Ways engage students in Youth Venture programs, where students work together to propose and implement service-learning projects.
“More Powerful Together” is more than the name of a conference; it is an idea that underlies the work United Ways are involved in every day. Tapping into enthusiasm for volunteering among young people, and making sure they are recognized as a valued part of “together,” is an important goal for us all.