This program is designed to increase adolescent’s awareness of their community and help them to feel a part of it. Our experience has been that through inclusion, the natural adolescent feelings of being disenfranchised can be dramatically impacted upon. By including students in the planning and implementation of this project, we have given them a unique ownership, which they have responded to enthusiastically.
It continues to be Colonial’s philosophy to respond to community needs by instituting innovative and effective programs to meet these needs. By utilizing Community Development funds to train youth as volunteers and working closely with community leaders, a multitude of needs have begun to be addressed. An essential component of this project continues to be for young people to work with and see adults as positive role models willing to volunteer their time to help their community.
When seeking funding, Colonial asked for support from community groups. When funding was secured, we invited representatives from each group to meet and discuss projects they felt were important. Since its inception, the Volunteer Corps has worked on 41 projects for a total of over 33,682 combined volunteer hours through August 2005.
Student volunteers have worked on many projects including: ongoing community clean ups, a mural contest, graffiti removal, writing and distributing volunteer newsletter, food pantry, PTO childcare, holiday assistance, tutoring, Spring Egg Hunt, Flowers For Friends, community Gardens, Snapper derby, Walk to Fight Breast Cancer, and many other special community events.
To date, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the community has embraced this project. Student volunteers report a feeling of greater self-esteem and pride. Local residents, merchants, and community leaders have supported efforts of the Volunteer Corps. Current School Board President, Vincent Pascale said “As past president of the Chamber of Commerce and President of the Board of Education, I strongly support this much needed program. The volunteers have done an exemplary job throughout our community.” Rotary Past President Bob Davis reports “The community volunteer program has been extremely important to our community.” Linda Ferucci, past President of Lioness stated “Keep up the good work and thank you!” Mary Buffa, past volunteer coordinator of the food pantry said “What a great help. The kids are very enthusiastic. They can’t do enough. Officer Pat Hyland said “I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you and Colonial Youth for your continued help and involvement in the smith Point Beach Youth Program”. Beth Wahl, President of the William Floyd Community Summit stated “We appreciate the help and it is wonderful to know that whenever we ask for assistance the Volunteer Corps is ready, willing and able to help”.
Through this project, it is evident that our community has great untapped resources and potential. We must find more ways to harvest these resources to create symbiotic relationships within our community if we are to meet the challenges of the future.