For the Win is a guest blog series featuring the remarkable initiatives that young Americans are advancing to win the future for their communities. Each week we highlight a new young person and learn about their inspiring work through their own words. Submit your story to appear in the For the Win guest blog series.
Tiffani Alexander, a 14 year-old from Covington, GA, is a member of the National Youth Advisory Council at generationOn, the global youth service enterprise of Points of Light. She is also the founder of Butterflies, Beetles and Bees, Oh My!, a bug club she runs in partnership with the Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale program. Tiffani has turned to these oft-neglected animals as a means of teaching compassion and nurturing—all in the context of exploring a very difficult issue: child abuse. Her program teaches children about how to care for and nurture small insects and how those skills can also be used to interact with other human beings.
Community service has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and continues to be as I have committed myself to giving back through volunteerism in my community. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, my family would deliver food baskets and toys to people in need through our church - this was the beginning of my journey with family volunteerism. When I was in the 2nd grade, I began volunteering with the Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale (PCA Rockdale) program, helping in the nursery, while my parents facilitated adult and children’s classes on how to prevent child abuse. Now, at the age of 14, I have been volunteering with PCA Rockdale for seven years.
My brother, who is five years older than I am, was also bit by the service bug and started a club through PCA Rockdale which I volunteered for, and as I got older, I wanted to do more. My brother told me to find something I was passionate about and run with it, and that’s just what I did.
I took my love for insects and turned it into a club – “Butterflies, Beetles and Bees, Oh My!” – that uses insects as a tool to demonstrate the importance of empathy and being sensitive to other’s needs. The program teaches children how to care for and nurture small insects and how those skills can also be used to interact with other human beings. For the past three and a half years, I have facilitated my club using activities such as bringing in live Bess Beetles to help the children learn about kindness, safety and compassion. The idea is, if children learn to be aware of others’ feelings and needs, they will hopefully become more compassionate citizens and be less likely to hurt others. The club currently has more than 60 members, ages 6 -12, and continues to grow.
The feelings that come with volunteering through “Butterflies, Beetles and Bees, Oh My!” are exhilarating and incredibly rewarding, and reflect what I call “Serving with Heart.” Volunteering with my family each week is very inspirational and is a great way to bond while helping others.
I encourage you to start volunteering with your family. Summertime, when young people are out of school, is a perfect time to “Serve with Heart” and encourage family members to take on a rewarding project to help others or volunteer for an activity already taking place. Below are a few tips on how to get involved and instill within your family a commitment to making a positive impact in your local community, and beyond.
Tip #1: Parents – introduce community service to your child(ren) at a young age, and kids – get started early. If children develop a passion for community service when they are younger, they are more likely to volunteer when they are older. Talk to your family about why service is important and how to make volunteering fun.
Tip #2: Find something that your family is passionate about. Whether it is working with animals, homeless people, babies, or senior citizens, making a difference can be even more rewarding when doing what you love with the people you love.
Tip #3: Volunteer on a consistent basis. Partnering with an organization is a great way to establish a consistent service commitment. However, if flexibility is what your family likes, commit to finding a new project each month. For example, choose and volunteer with a homeless shelter one month and maybe an animal shelter the next. The choices are unlimited.
Tip #4: Find projects that are local. When you are first starting out, find local projects that interest you. You can make a difference in your community.
Tip #5: Look for ideas and resources. Organizations such as generationOn are aimed at getting children 5-18 years old involved in service. You can find great ideas and monthly projects for your family.
Spring into action and get involved! Once you find a project that your family loves, stick with it. Consistency is everything, so make it a habit to volunteer on a regular basis and honor your commitment – people are counting on you. For more project ideas or stories about how other youth are making their mark on the world, visit www.generationOn.org.
Check out previous For the Win blog posts:
Ronnie Cho is an Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement.