Today's blog is republished from the White House For the Win Blog Series on Friday, July 13. The blog is written by Andrew Carlone, who attended the generationOn Youth Summit at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Chicago, Ill.
I have just returned from one of the most inspirational trips of my life. I'd like to share my experiences from the generationOn Youth Summit that took place in Chicago from June 18-20. Upon my arrival to McCormick Place in America's third largest city, I was taken aback by the number of people attending this volunteer conference. It was really amazing and inspiring to see how many people out there are trying to make a difference. The large majority of these people were attending the general “Turning Point" Conference put on by Points of Light. I was attending the Youth Summit and Workshops alongside approximately 50 other teens.
On the first day we listened to several speakers and then prepared disaster response kits for local Chicago seniors. These kits consisted of food, water, flashlights, emergency contact numbers and guides to responding to disasters. It was an amazingly simple task, but it really demonstrates how easy it can be to make your mark on the world. Following this project, we listened to a panel moderated by none other than the grandson of George H.W. Bush, Pierce Bush. Pierce dug into the service projects of four young leaders of nonprofit organizations. He helped the audience understand exactly what it takes to start a nonprofit and the panel members really inspired me. After my first day in Chicago, my family and I stayed with a friendly couple who graciously invited us to stay on the fourth floor of their house. These two wonderful people belong to the Illinois Chapter of POA.
On the second day, the Youth Summit attendees decorated bags for seniors and filled them with puzzles and memory games to help keep their minds sharp and agile. This was another example of just how easy it can be to volunteer and make a difference. Several speakers came and shared various inspirational projects with us, and this marked the end of the second day.
The Conference for adults started right after the second day and Youth Summit and Workshop attendees were welcomed to attend the opening ceremony and listen to speakers including Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Barbara Bush, Neil Bush, Lauren Bush, Pierce Bush, Kevin Bacon and more. I had never seen so many famous people all at once, so that alone made the ceremony really stand out.
On the third and final day at the Summit and Youth Workshops, I learned a lot about public speaking, grant writing, more youth projects and tips on making them come to life. I was also able to share details about the big fundraiser I did after my Youth Ambassador trip to Ecuador with some of the people I met at [the] Conference. I met a huge number of truly inspirational young volunteers whom I hope to work with in future endeavors.
It was great to spend three days in one of my favorite cities in the world, to learn from some of the brightest young volunteers in the country, sharpen my public speaking skills and take home a head full of inspiration. I am thankful to Partners for allowing me to attend and represent them among so many great service-minded people and to generationOn for hosting such a great event. This experience is something I will not soon forget.
Andrew Carlone, 17, is a senior at Northville High School in Northville, Mich. He is a member of Partners of the Americas, an international network that promotes social and economic development in the Americas through leadership, voluntary service and development programs.