Global Youth Service Day (which is actually observed between April 29 and May 1 this year) is, according to its website, “the largest youth service and civic action event in the world and the only one that celebrates and builds the capacity of all youth ages 5-25 to help our communities and democracy thrive by working together for the common good.” The idea behind Global Youth Service Day (and its organization, Youth Service America) is to create a culture of participation among kids and young adults, and the results are twofold: this service helps establish young leaders, and the initiatives help communities thrive.
During Global Youth Service Day, young volunteers commit to leading awareness, service, advocacy, or philanthropy projects to achieve the organization’s global goals, which also include registering and educating new young voters as well as advocating for policy change. As of this writing, there are 734 activities planned for Global Youth Service Day, with 477 partners in 363 communities–impressive!
Also impressive is the number of dedicated student-volunteers right here at Bridgeway Academy! We already dedicated an article to Bridgeway Academy’s participation in Compassion International’s Act for Compassion, a community service initiative dedicated to fundraising for one specific issue each year (in past years, Bridgeway Academy has participated in fundraising for disaster relief, COVID pandemic relief, special needs children, Water for Life, and children at risk of exploitation…this year’s initiative is focused on fundraising for Haiti). So, in the spirit of Global Youth Service Day and student volunteerism everywhere, we’re going to spotlight a few of our amazing students as well as their good deeds.
Ashton, an 11th grader, has been learning with Bridgeway Academy for four years–and that’s also how long he’s been participating in community service. Over the past four years, Ashton has taken part in trash cleanup in his hometown as well as fundraising for local children in Child Protective Services so they’re able to get the clothes, essentials, and toys they need.
For Ashton, the desire to help others is the primary reason he volunteers for community service, but there’s also an immense sense of pride that goes along with his selflessness. “I enjoy helping others and knowing I make a difference,” stated Ashton. “I love getting to share what I have done and feeling that I have made a difference in my community and the world.”
Ashton has been an active participant in Act for Compassion and the initiative’s Act Day, when student volunteers are not only encouraged to help those in need within their own communities, but they’re also asked to reflect on the mission by putting themselves in the shoes of those they’re helping. One of Ashton’s most memorable Act Days occurred when he limited his amount of food for the day to better understand how people in poverty deal with hunger on a daily basis.
Along with the community service itself, Ashton enjoys the opportunities he has to socialize with others outside his day-to-day interactions. “In order to do community service, you usually have to speak to someone to set up your project, which enables socialization,” explained Ashton. “Plus, I get to talk about it all with my peers after it’s done.”
Serving others is obviously a priority in Ashton’s life, and he’s proud to be associated with a school that promotes community service and volunteerism for its students. “I think it’s amazing, knowing that my school represents helping others,” said Ashton. “Community service absolutely builds school and community spirit and togetherness, and it’s a warming feeling knowing my school helps the community.”
Bridgeway Academy couldn’t do it without incredible young people such as Ashton.
Like Ashton, Grace is an 11th grader at Bridgeway Academy and has a passion for community service. “Community service allows me to be an active and engaged member of my community,” she said. “I want to help, I can help, and I am motivated to help.” It’s that motivation that has compelled Grace to take part in fundraising and donation drives for organizations such as Toys for Tots, the AJC Empty Stocking Fund, MUST Ministries, Pickens Animal Rescue, and others. Grace has also participated in efforts such as park cleanups and clothing donation drives.
Her abundant community service isn’t limited to her hometown either–Grace is very active in Bridgeway Academy’s many community endeavors. In fact, one of her favorite community service experiences so far was her Community Project 2020, which involved her creating a marketing plan and distributing marketing materials, as well as holding an animal rescue supply drive. Through Grace’s efforts, she was able to raise around $100 for animal rescue as well as a substantial amount of pet supplies that she brought to the animal rescue center. “Delivering the supplies to the rescue was the most gratifying and heartfelt part of the experience,” recalled Grace. “Seeing the excitement in the animal rescue staff’s faces was something I’ll never forget.”
Act for Compassion is another Bridgeway Academy initiative Grace strongly supports. She sponsors a child in Africa named Ezekiel through Compassion International and appreciates the opportunity to better comprehend what children like Ezekiel are forced to cope with every day. “Fully participating with the reading, viewing videos, thoughtful journaling, and Act Day creates a vividly clear perception of the trials, tribulations, and challenges these people face,” said Grace. “Actively helping these people through fundraising creates an unmatched feeling of fulfillment.”
While Grace has certainly discovered plenty of community service opportunities on her own, she is thrilled to have the chance to participate in Bridgeway Academy’s initiatives as well. “Bridgeway has a community service focus that is exemplary and praiseworthy,” Grace commented. “The focus on charity, giving of oneself, and servant leadership goes above and beyond what other academic organizations require of their students. I am honored and privileged to be able to participate in these opportunities.”
Grace also relishes the opportunity to meet new people through community service events. “Bridgeway students who participate in community service create a feeling of camaraderie, sharing their common experiences when volunteering,” explained Grace. “Getting out in the community to engage in community service events allows participants a greater reach into society, networking opportunities, and improved social skills.
“Also, volunteers can meet neighbors and others in the community, connecting the volunteer to opportunities outside of the event. Further, community service builds and improves skills that a student will need in the future workplace and allows the student to ‘try out’ a career. It is a valuable experience to practice socializing in different environments.”
Eleventh-grader Liam has been with Bridgeway Academy for three years, but his participation in community service predates his enrollment with us. Liam has been active in his community for the past five years, beginning when he and his family moved to Mexico.
Throughout that time, Liam has volunteered to help a local dog shelter called SULA by walking and feeding the dogs. He’s also dedicated his time to helping pack food bags for those in need at a local food shelter. Liam is also proud of the work he does for a group called Vallarta Abuelos, which focuses on helping less-fortunate children experience happier childhoods through fundraising for school supplies and stuffing eggs during Easter.
“I like to help make a difference in my community with my free time,” said Liam. “I realize that I am more fortunate than many of these families in Mexico, so I think of volunteering as my way of being thankful for growing up in such a lucky and carefree environment.”
Even when his plate is full with local community service endeavors, Liam makes time to participate in Bridgeway Academy’s initiatives as well for a variety of reasons. “I think Bridgeway does an excellent job of encouraging and emphasizing community service participation,” Liam explained. “It teaches you to be a leader and create your own opportunities. Plus, community service builds spirit in communities by helping with morale, showing that you want to make a difference and make a change, making you closer to your community, and building togetherness.”
His favorite Bridgeway Academy volunteering experience came when he raised more than 6,000 pesos to help fund the dog shelter with which he volunteers his time. Those funds went toward necessary repairs to the shelter as it prepared for the stormy season.
Like fellow juniors Ashton and Grace, Liam is an active participant in Act for Compassion, which he finds important because he “wanted to start doing something for my community to make an impact. It helped that I felt like I was making a difference, even if only a small one.”
He also appreciates Bridgeway Academy’s involvement in community service and that it encourages students to get as involved as they can. “I think Bridgeway does an excellent job of encouraging and emphasizing community service participation,” Liam commented. “It teaches you to be a leader and create your own opportunities. Plus, community service builds spirit in communities by helping with morale, showing that you want to make a difference and make a change, bringing you closer to your community and building togetherness.”
Bridgeway Academy could not be more proud of Ashton, Grace, Liam, and all of our amazing student-volunteers! And we appreciate everything that you do to help your communities, to make the world a better place, and to proudly represent Bridgeway Academy!