Shirley Brown is making the difference for young people in the Fort Bend Independent School District (ISD) community by helping students meet the volunteer requirements for college entrance. More importantly, she is leading young people to the understanding that volunteering is as important as work, family and other personal responsibilities.
Her lessons include the fact that we all have a responsibility to give back of one's energy, talent and personal resources and that true change begins with one person. Neighbors helping neighbors is the theme that frames Ms. Brown's program, Youth Expanding Service (YES!), which was developed in 1996.
During the 1996-1997 school year, Ms. Brown, a foreign language teacher at Clements High School, created YES! The YES! program was designed to encourage Fort Bend ISD students to engage in voluntary service at the local level and to provide them with opportunities that "make a difference" in an atmosphere where it is easy and "cool" to perform community service. Through the YES! Program, high school students learn about the value of being philanthropists within their own communities and experience personal growth.
Think of the positive effect on the achievement and development of our Fort Bend ISD youth as they accumulate volunteer community service hours throughout four years of high school. Within this program a young person can excel, regardless of grades, talent, or athletic ability. The only requirement is heart and energy—both of which Shirley has a great deal that she continuously passes on to young people. After the successful pilot year, the 600+ students involved in the YES! program at Clements High School completed more than 14,000 hours of documented service. Over the past three years, she has had 1,000+ students who have given more than 45,000 hours. Giving of themselves to their community has become a way of life for Shirley's "kids."
In addition to her work at Clements High School, she has led three other high school campuses to form their own YES! programs. In the 1997-1998 academic year, the three participating high schools documented more than 51,000 community service hours. She currently is working to collaborate with Service Houston to facilitate scholarships for her kids in recognition of their community service.
Participation in YES! is voluntary and students may not be paid for the service they perform. The required hours can be fulfilled only with a non-profit agency or a non-family individual in need. Student volunteers are encouraged to be creative and varied in their community involvement. At the end of the service, a form is completed by the student and signed by the appropriate person with the program or agency or by the recipient of that service, and the number of hours worked is documented.