Michelle Craig, a 17-year-old student at Austin High School in Decatur, Alabama, has learned to become diversified in her volunteerism. She focuses primarily on the environment and the wildlife in it.
Michelle’s interest in wildlife started when she joined her 4-H Wildlife Club in 1996. When she first started she just thought the club was only to study for competition at Auburn University. However, the sponsor for the Wildlife Club, Mrs. Sandy Shepard, encourages the members to participate in helping to clean and beautify the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge once a month.
The projects that are done on the Refuge are to help the wildlife and the community when they come to visit. Some projects she has been involved in include planting wildflowers along the trails, making brush piles for the wildlife, planting trees on land acquired by the Refuge, posting identification signs on trees and plants, picking up trash on Refuge land, and making a Christmas tree for wildlife (decorated with food for the wildlife to eat). She has also volunteered at the Refuge independent of the Wildlife Club. At the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge’s Fishing Rodeo she helps with the younger children.
In the past year Michelle has expanded her leadership role in the club tremendously. In 1999, the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge started a new day of learning called the Backyard Habitat Festival. Many clubs and businesses were asked to create displays for the event, including the 4-H Wildlife Club. The Wildlife Club was asked to make a display that presented the wildlife management practices for urban and rural habitats. She was asked to make the display for the club. She took this opportunity and produced a final display that was much more than what her sponsor required. She created a board for the display which incorporated a slide-show. She also made wildlife magnets and pamphlets to help the community learn more about wildlife management practices.
In addition to her time in the 4-H Wildlife Club, Michelle also volunteers in her 4-H Club, the Teen Leadership Council. Since she joined 4-H in 1993, she has helped at the County Round-Up Comeptition that is held every year. The first few years she stayed after and helped put away chairs and straighten rooms. Now she is one of the first people at the Round-Up to help set up for the day’s events and show newcomers where they need to be. Throughout the day she runs errands for the event sponsors while competing in her own competitions. For the last two years, she has helped in the awards ceremony. This past year she was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the awards program. After the awards program, she always helpd clean up and she is usually one of the last ones to leave, making sure everything is done.
Michelle is there for many of the other 4-H activities that need volunteers. At day camps she helps to teach younger children. In one day camp, “Show Others What You Know,” she teaches children about the different areas that they can compete in at County Round-Up. At another day camp, “Zebra Mussel,” she helps children learn about the effects of Zebra Mussels in the environment. Michelle is also active in the United Way Youth Service Council. Last year they helped deliver food for Meals on Wheels, cleaned the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club and played with the children, and prepared bags for nurses that worked with Hopsice. She also helped with two fundraisers during the year for United Way, Dillard’s Benefit Sale and Applebee’s Pancake Breakfast.
Away from club activities, Michelle volunteers on her own. She helped with the Church of God’s Halloween Festival for the children of the church. At Christmastime, she went to the Salvation Army and bagged food for the less fortunate. She is a model volunteer whom many youth find an inspiring example for volunteer service.