Colene Burns, a twenty-three year-old graduate student, hopes to have an exciting career as a financial executive in corporate America. Her most distinctive quality, however, is her commitment to promoting the benefits of volunteerism. A majority of America’s existing problems are remedied by a strong network of volunteers. Colene has made it her priority to convince others that volunteerism is necessary to ensure the continued existence of crucial services for our nation. Colene is truly a lifelong volunteer. Her community service began at age nine and continued in middle school as the pianist for a monthly nursing home program. During her junior year of high school, she began publishing a monthly newsletter in hopes of educating her hometown about local volunteer activities.
Colene has a passion for work with children, and she believes they are an untapped volunteer resource. In hopes of molding the community leaders of tomorrow, she founded Community Youth League (CYL) in 2003. Today, CYL Inc. is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to educating students about community service. Since its inception, CYL has impacted over 3000 students. In an effort to utilize the caring hearts and volunteer capacity of children, Colene has dedicated over 3500 hours of community service. Colene serves as a guest speaker at community events throughout North Alabama educating citizens about the benefits of volunteerism and promoting CYL and Youth Service America. Over the past five years, Colene has implemented CYL in schools throughout Alabama. CYL has grown to encompass various programs including the Blount County CYL Essay Contest and Youth Workshop, the Shoals CYL Essay Contest and Youth Workshop, the CYL Mentors, and the CYL Classroom Project.
CYL essay contests allow children to explore ways to help their communities. Colene loves to see the children’s excited faces when they receive recognition for their hard work. Since Colene believes children learn from hands-on experiences, she hosts an annual CYL Youth Workshop for students. Colene received grant funding from the Leading Edge Institute for the creation of the CYL Youth Workshop. The CYL Mentors recognize high school students who serve as community role models for their younger counterparts. Through the CYL Classroom Project, students unite to participate in service projects to benefit a worthy cause.
Colene has recently submitted a bill proposing the creation of the Alabama High School Diploma with Service Endorsement for consideration by state representatives. Colene promotes CYL as her platform for the Miss Alabama Organization. As a result of the Miss America Organization’s partnership with Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), Burns has created meaningful fundraising projects to benefit CMN.
Colene’s tireless efforts were recognized by her receipt of the Gold Level Presidential Community Service Award. She was a 2007 finalist for the Miss Alabama Community Service Award and received the University of North Alabama’s Undergraduate Service Award. Colene displays a unique passion for helping others and is a refreshing reminder of the power possessed by young Americans. She truly exhibits a vision for her community and is committed to convincing each student to become a volunteer for life.