Local teens give back during United for Impact program

Published 2:42 pm Saturday, September 30, 2017

by Trish Tsitsera

This summer, 20 teens participated in United for Impact, a new program designed to help students in grades 8-12 enhance their leadership abilities, build teamwork skills and create a positive change in their community. The program was hosted by the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way in a partnership with Paul D. Camp Community College’s Kids College summer program.

Students representing eight local schools learned the importance of community service and volunteerism by completing hands-on service projects at United Way partner agencies. Projects included stainingwood at Camp Darden and Graz’n Acres, working at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, shelving books for the Blackwater Regional Library, assembling school supply kits for Franklin Cooperative Ministry, volunteering at the Children’s Center and hosting a movie for the Boys and Girls Club.

Students experienced a team-based environment and gained a valuable combination of skills, values, and motivation to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors.

Activities and workshops emphasized budgeting, utilizing community resources, and the impact of volunteering.

“More agencies need volunteers than you think,” said Faith Page, an eigth grade student at Star Pointe Academy. “If you really want to help, ask around, because not everyone will advertise that need.”

“Community Service is an integral part of youth development,” said Trish Tsitsera, executive director of the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way. “Students need service hours for high school graduation requirements, job applications and college scholarships. Our program was designed to give students the opportunity to earn those hours while developing a desire to continue giving back to their community.”

At the end of each session, participants earned a community service certificate, a letter of recommendation from the United Way Board of Directors and a list of available opportunities to continue serving as a catalyst for positive change in the community. They also had the opportunity to meet agency representatives and local businesses leaders.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce and the United Way Board of Directors hosted a round-table luncheon with each group to discuss their experiences during the class, ways to strengthen the community, and what they learned about volunteerism.

Alyssa Cleaton, an 11th grade student at Southampton High School said, “I learned how many different agencies help in our community and how much of an impact volunteering can have on people’s lives.”

Avery Williams, an 11th grade student at Lakeland High School remarked that he learned the importance of volunteer work.

“It helps bring people together,” said Williams.

Southampton Academy eighth grader Erika Shaffer described the different ways to volunteer as “sometimes fun and other times not, but all for a good case.” Shaffer said, “You can also make new friends and meet new people.”

Tsitsera said that the program was very successful for its first year.

“We are already looking at ways of expanding the program during the school year and will definitely continue it during the summer of 2018,” she said. “We had a great group of teens participate and they are the future leaders and volunteers of our community.”

If you need additional information, contact Trish Tsitsera at 569-8929 or uw@uwfranklinsouthampton.org.