How I Discovered Myself Through Volunteering

Editor’s Note: VolunteerMatch participates in Immaculate Conception Academy (ICA)’s Corporate Work Study Program. Michaela, one of our ICA volunteers, wrote the following post to share how volunteering has impacted her life.

Guest post by Michaela Sasin.

The Young Lives Matter Foundation’s (YLMF) mission is to help kids from low-income families stay out of trouble and understand the importance of teamwork. YLMF also strives to help young people go after their dreams and contribute positively to their community. We want kids to know that no matter what challenges they’re facing, their family and community is here for them.

Over the past two years, I’ve volunteered with YLMF in a variety of roles. I’ve served as team manager, social media manager, junior cheer coach and teen leader for the Berkeley Jr. Jackets.

YLMF is comprised of four programs, one of which I helped develop! Implementing the Girls Empowerment program has been one of my biggest accomplishments while volunteering at YLMF. Here’s how I did it:

As a junior cheer coach for the  YLMF cheer program, I noticed that the girls weren’t getting along with one another. I used to be on a cheer team myself and know how important it is to respect your teammates. I remembered a team-building workshop I went to when I was in cheer that helped me and my team bond and understand each other better.

I thought that’s just what this team needs, so I shared the idea of a Girls Empowerment workshop with my mom since she’s on the board at YLMF and could help advocate for my idea with the president. Both my mom and the president loved the idea, so my mom helped me get started.

My mom and I began this program together to help YLMF girls build their confidence and respect for each other through various team- and skill-building exercises. We wanted them to learn how to stay strong and handle situations that may be hurtful or uncomfortable.

To do this, I used exercises I learned at the workshop I went to with my cheer team when I was younger.  For example, we used a toothpaste exercise to show them that once you say something, you can’t take it back. We also led a balloon exercise where they had to work as a team to keep the balloon from touching the ground. This helped them work together, communicate and build stronger relationships with one another.

This program has been a fun way for girls at YLMF to bond and learn important skills, like communication. And it’s made a positive impact so far!  In fact, there were three sisters who went through our program; their mom told us that they’ve been much nicer to each other and have been fighting much less since going through the Girls Empowerment workshop.

I really love this program because, while I’m teaching the girls, I’m also learning and growing. For example, volunteering with YLMF has helped me become a leader and shown me that I can make a difference in the world. As a teen leader, I’ve found my voice in society. Before YLMF, I was really shy and I didn’t like talking to people. I was worried my ideas would be deserted, so I wouldn’t voice them. But now, I talk to people more and I’m confident enough to share what I’m thinking. A member of the YLMF staff even noticed how passionate and energetic I became working with the girls and asked me to be her assistant coach for cheer. She also loves how the girls respond to me when I asked them to do something!

I hope sharing my story will inspire others to volunteer, especially teens. As a teenager myself, I know how important it is to find your place in the world — I’ve found mine as a leader at YLMF. Volunteering can be hard, especially for teens who have to balance the ups and downs of volunteering while going to school, finishing their homework, etc. I’ve struggled myself, but it’s worth it! I’ve made new friendships, learned new skills,  developed more self-esteem, and grown into a leader!

I also want to inspire other nonprofit organizations to engage teen volunteers and perhaps even give them leadership opportunities as YLMF does. Volunteering helps teens get off the couch and encourages them to lend a hand instead of the remote! It’s a great way to inspire teens to be more active mentally and physically, give back to their community and follow their dreams. Plus, teens may even bring fresh new ideas and new supporters who can help the organization by volunteering or donating. 😊

Author Bio: Michaela Sasin is a junior at Immaculate Conception Academy. As part of her Ethics & Morality class, she completed a Service Learning Project at YLMF. Michaela loves dogs, science and is excited for senior year next year!