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United Way Blog

Youth Service: Making a Mark in Your Own Backyard

Did you know that volunteering can make a dramatic difference in the lives of children and youth, their families, and the people whom they serve? Serving at a young age promotes healthy lifestyles and choices, enhances development, teaches life skills, improves the community and encourages a lifelong ethic of giving. Plus, it’s a fun way to make a mark!

For 30 years, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) has brought this message home. Held this year from April 20-22, this annual event celebrates the millions of children and youth across the globe who work together to effect positive change in their communities. Volunteers like the 250 students from Lakeview Elementary in Madison, Wisconsin, who visit Warner Park every year to do a spring cleaning of the park and plant trees. This year, these students will be among 1,400 other volunteers participating in “Spring to Action,” an event hosted by United Way of Dane County in celebration of Earth Day and GYSD.

In addition to the planned hands-on activities, throughout the school year United Way of Dane County offers local high school students the opportunity to better understand their community’s challenges and the authority to decide how to fund efforts to address them. Their program, By Youth For Youth (BYFY), brings two dozen students from 12 schools together every week to learn about and discuss community needs, set funding priorities, conduct an RFP process, review applications, and designate grants of up to $3,000 each for youth programing.

This year, BYFY will grant $35,000 to youth programs in Dane County, like Lussier Community Education Center’s Youth Action Summer Internship, which teaches teens decision-making skills and promotes civic leadership through service projects.

These are just two examples of how youth are making a mark through service. Whether they’re sprucing up a park or analyzing how best to allocate dollars that will bring about positive change, the children and youth of Dane County are making a difference today for a better tomorrow, just like their counterparts across the globe. To learn how you can get involved in your community on GYSD—and every day—contact your local United Way.

Inspired by what you read? Change starts with you. Take action today to make a difference in your community.