Young District Residents Focus on Service

Reyna S. Walters | 4/29/2009, 3:26 p.m.

Young people in the District of Columbia braved unseasonably warm temperatures last weekend to improve their communities. The District kicked-off Global Youth Service Day (€GYSD€) on Fri. April 24, which was actually a weekend filled with community service projects that either had heavy youth involvement or were led by youth.

GYSD is a world-wide program with participants in over 100 countries. The program has been in existence for 21 years and boasts of being the largest volunteer event in the world. The District has participated in GYSD for the last eight years and is coordinated through Serve DC, part of the Mayor€s Office on Volunteerism. Serve DC held a training program to help young participants plan their projects and mobilize volunteers. Some projects were also eligible to receive grants of up to $150 in Home Depot gift cards to defray costs.

GYSD promotes the civic engagement of youth while educating the community €about the role of youth as community leaders.€

€Young people have a vested interest in service,€ said M. Renee Arnold, Communications and Strategic Planning Specialist for Serve DC. She believes that GYSD shows how dedicated young people are to the betterment of their communities.
Approximately 81 service projects were scheduled to take place during the weekend. The projects ranged from bake sales to raise money for charity to educational programs.

The Kenilworth-Parkside Recreation Center Beautification Project was one of the projects occurring during the weekend. Approximately 15 young people from the Supreme Teen Club painted park benches and planted flowers. The volunteers, between the ages of 13 and 19 years old, were working hard to improve the recreation center that they frequently use.
€This is their recreation center and they want it to look nice,€ said Janice Wright, the adult onsite coordinator for the Kenilworth Beautification Project.

One of the participants, 15 year old Rozine Johnson, agreed. €You can make it better for everyone else who comes,€ Johnson said.

Johnson is a new to the Supreme Teen Program, which offers safe, educational, and fun Friday night activities for neighborhood teenagers. When asked why it was important to volunteer, Johnson said €A lot of people don€t do it or don€t care, but you can do it for fun. You can learn stuff, like today I€m learning how to garden.€

Across town at the Marie H. Reed Community Learning Center, 14 year old Arabia Lewis was busy greeting and assisting visitors attending the Adams Morgan €BowWow PowWow€, sponsored by the non-profit organization Adams Morgan Main Street. The third annual event featured vendors catering to doggie needs such as day care and grooming, and provided owners with an opportunity to showcase their dogs in contests like best trick, smallest dog, and most handsome dog.
€The program had two goals: to create a positive image and increase foot traffic in the Adams Morgan area and raise money for Adams Morgan Main Street,€ said Lisa Duperier, one of the adult event organizers.

Lewis decided to volunteer with the event because the name sounded interesting, but in the process gained a better understanding of how non-profits work.

Lewis was pleased with her volunteer experience and earned several community service hours, required by her school, in the process. €People should always help out the community,€ Lewis said. €There are always ways to make it better.€

Reyna S. Walters may be reached at queensimone1908@aol.com.