VolunTEENS of Baton Rouge is in its 10th year of existence. There are three major components that contribute to the overall program. There is an intensive summer program, an ongoing school year program and a teen Board of volunteers.
Both the summer and school program are based on ongoing involvement. During each summer, VolunTEENS spend seven weeks diligently working at various locations. Each program lasts for one week and repeats its service the following year. The youth volunteers work with several different types of programs and enjoy renewing friendships each summer with fellow TEENS and agencies from the prior years. Last year, the TEENS met the needs of the community by working with the Young Leaders Academy, programs that aid abused children, handicapped swimmers, the elderly, at-risk youth , the Food Bank, soup kitchens and many other community programs and agencies.
The relationships developed during the summer are important with regards to the ongoing projects held during the school year. VolunTEENS would not be successful without the support of more than eighty local agencies and schools. The TEENS have high school to elementary school tutoring programs and participated in story time at the Capital in Baton Rouge as well as the Vote Against Hunger.
The TEEN Board is an innovative idea. This Board is made up of young people who serve as a youth advisory council and helps the VolunTEEN prgoram to set policies and to keep the staff in touch with the needs and trends of teenagers in the Baton Rouge Community. VolunTEEN has also developed a group called the TEENatrics. This group of talented youth performs skits for other youth about the pressures of growing up and the opportunities to make sound life choices. They also sponsor a reading program that encourages weaker reading students in high school to tutor elementary school children. By spending time teaching the younger children fundamental reading, they enhance their own abilities.
VolunTEENS are active and receive support from much of the community. However, annually the program surveys the TEENS and their parents to make sure the program is doing the job it set out to do. With a 41% response rate, 144 parents indicated that they would all recommend the program to other parents and wanted their child to participate again. Ninety-six percent felt their teenager learned about diversity and noticed a positive change in their child due to participation in the VolunTEENS. All parents listed positive changed, but the three most mentioned changes were: awareness of social problems, respect for others and awareness of other’s needs.
VolunTEENS is one of the largest youth volunteer organizations in the country. In 1999, they had 2,050 teenagers in the program that gave more than 21,000 hours of service. These teens have boosted the self-confidence of others, educated and tutored and taught by their example of service to their community.