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Guest Blog: For the Win

Second grade was all about group projects. I clearly remember coloring my portion of the Native American totem pole for one of my many second grade assignments. I was hoping that both Nathan and Nadia (fellow classmates) would be in my group. They were, by far, the most talented in the class with a crayon.  Mrs. Olson was my second grade teacher. She was truly committed to putting us together in different groups to work on class projects.  The focus was to be less on the individual and more on a democratic process.

I was seven years old, sitting in Mrs. Olson’s classroom coloring, when the planes hit the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I have vague recollections and blurred memories of the events of Sept. 11, although I clearly remember feeling anxious and worried. My dad is in the Naval Reserves, and I thought he would be immediately deployed. Our family talked about the events and I was comforted by the stories of heroes and strangers that offered donations and support to New York City. My sister and I decided to have a lemonade stand to raise funds to send directly to the American Red Cross. Our total sales of $125 may not have made a tremendous impact, but it provided comfort for us to realize that as elementary school students, we could still contribute to the cause. Sept. 11, although a terrible tragedy, also demonstrated the remarkable kindness that exists and prevails in our world.

To honor the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I am planning a service project to unite our community and honor the memory of those who gave their lives. I wanted to organize a project where people of all ages and abilities could participate. I took the initiative to plan a park clean-up and one-mile family walk entitled, Serve to Remember. I relied heavily on Mrs. Olson’s group project training:  when planning a project there is a huge benefit to working as a team. It would be easier to tackle the publicity, marketing and organizing tasks if I could collaborate with other youth and organizations. Since I am not a huge fan of the telephone, I corresponded by email. I contacted local organizations, employers, schools and government officials to invite them to collaborate on the 9/11 service project. The response has been overwhelming from the local police department, schools, businesses and nonprofit organizations who are all excited to take part in our Sept. 11 event. All it takes is one idea, emails, a few meetings and a willingness to take the initiative to unite to organize and collaborate on a project. Thank you, Mrs. Olson for the group project training.

What will you do in tribute this 9/11? Post your “I Will” statement at the 9/11 Facebook page.

About Jacob: Jacob Bernstein, a 17 year old from St. Louis, Mo., is a member of the Youth Advisory Council at generationOn, the youth activation division of Points of Light Institute. Jacob is also an active leader of his school’s student government and a member of the Junior Advisory Board of the Danforth Science Center.  Jacob co-founded St. Louis Volunteens, a website that provides youth with volunteer resources.  The success of the website led him to create and organize the St. Louis Youth and Family Volunteer Fair, which is in its second year.To find more information about Jake’s 9/11 service project, you can contact him on twitter:!/stlvolunteen

If you have a story to share on our Young Americans blog, we’d love to hear it! Please send your submission here and we’ll get back to you.

Jacob Berstein-Young Americans