Two issues will be addressed with starting a Kinross Recreation Center Youth Volunteer Council: youth with few productive activity options and a community that has many needs that are not being attended to. The town of Kinross and the surrounding areas are rural, have substantial poverty among families, and house four of Michigan’s prisons. The combination of these aspects makes the community less than appealing for many of its youth inhabitants. Some of the youth even have parents in the prisons. The Kinross Recreation is a place of hope for young children, teens, and adults. It boasts a large gym, a playground, tennis and basketball courts, a work-out facility, a computer lab, and at-costs enrichment classes for the community. Young children and adults find many activities at the Recreation Center to entertain themselves. Teens, however, who are too old to play games with the children and too young to use equipment in the work-out facility, are left with fewer options. Teens still frequent the Recreation Center, but staff has run into a problem with fights and other inappropriate behavior because of a lack of positive activities for the teens. For these reasons, the United Way Volunteer Center has identified the Kinross Recreation Center as an ideal location for a Youth Volunteer Council. As a result of service learning projects brought to the local high school by the United Way Volunteer Center, there is already interest in community service in the youth of Kinross. If the Volunteer Center acts now to cultivate this interest, the results will be great.
The United Way Volunteer Center has experience in founding youth volunteer
groups. Earlier this school year, a Youth Volunteer Council (YVC) was started at Sault High School, which is 25 miles north of Kinross. This group has been a great success; members complete monthly service projects in the community and volunteer with groups outside YVC. Projects that they have conducted include: fund-raisers, events for children at the local Boys & Girls Club, a homelessness awareness event, making valentines for and spending time with residents at senior citizen’s homes, mentoring children in elementary schools, and earth day clean-ups. Many of the members of this group received the Michigan Student Service Award, which is passed down from the governor of Michigan for completing a substantial amount of community service. Students who earned this award wrote reflective essays about their volunteer experiences and it was obvious through these essays that volunteering positively impacted their lives and their communities. This type of positive impact would be great everywhere, and Kinross is a model place to begin this expansion.
The Volunteer Center has already laid the groundwork for a relationship with the Kinross Recreation Center by coordinating a clean-up by youth volunteers and a Family Fun Day at the Recreation Center, also run by youth volunteers. The next step in building a Youth Volunteer Council will be to meet with the staff at the Recreation Center to discuss the best approach. Then the youth service representative from the Volunteer Center will hold a kick-off event such as a cook-out to get youth interested in joining the Youth Volunteer Council. Estimating from the interest during service learning projects, there will be a core group of 5-10 youth to begin this venture, and more youth will be recruited from the Recreation Center patrons and the community as a whole. As soon as the initial group of youth volunteers is formed, they will have a large role in the projects that they take on. They will identify community needs and then design projects to meet them. The youth service representative will facilitate meetings and handle finances for the group. This Volunteer Center Staff person is an AmeriCorps* VISTA who works specifically with at-risk youth. Her term of service will be over in November and a new VISTA will carry on with the plans for the Youth Volunteer Council.