SARASOTA, FL – From March 14-18, CYD held its 2nd Annual “Alternative Spring Break,” during which youth engaged in a week of community service at various nonprofit and community sites. The students began the week with a day-long workshop on social justice and youth empowerment then participated in various service projects throughout the community. A total of 70 teens volunteered throughout the week, amassing more than 1,000 hours in leadership and service.
Student volunteers participated in the following volunteer activities: prepping horses for classes at Prospect Riding Center, painting a home with Habitat for Humanity, engaging with clients of Easter Seals, providing games and activities at Girls, Inc., making cages to protect turtles with Mote Marine, gardening at the Orange Blossom Community Garden, reading to children with the Early Learning Coalition, working with adults with disabilities at Loveland Center, and sorting/packing food at All Faiths Food Bank. Other community partners that benefited from student efforts included Pines of Sarasota, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation, Friendship Centers, Save Our Seabirds and Children First.
“This experience taught me that volunteering can really impact people and make their lives better,” said Riverview High School 9th grader Kaia Cheney. “As a result of participating in Alternative Spring Break, I plan to get involved more in my community. CYD has helped me connect with other organizations so now I know about opportunities to volunteer.”
“[My daughter] Liz came home so excited to tell me about her day after playing games and dancing at the Friendship Centers; and she adored the people at the Loveland Center. She not only saw firsthand how much these two organizations serve our community – it gave her ideas on what services may be needed and where she can make a difference,” said parent Kim Davis. “I highly recommend this experience for all kids. They will not only make new friends and learn better how to give back; they may even discover a need or cause that could change their career choice.”
One of CYD’s signature programs is SRQVolunteen, which connects teens to volunteer opportunities. Through participation in this program, middle and high school students earn community service hours while learning valuable employability skills such as team-building and problem-solving, improving interpersonal skills through teamwork and networking, and discovering their strengths, aptitudes and passions – all while supporting causes they feel passionately about and making a difference in our community. In 2015, SRQVolunteen participants contributed more than 3,600 total volunteer hours to benefit our community through 32 days of service, 10 middle school training projects, STAR Leadership Training program projects, Alternative Spring Break projects and the 2015 Global Youth Service Day.
“Peer influence is crucial to volunteer programs,” said CYD executive director Karen Bogues. “Simply asking a young person to volunteer – whether they’re asked by a peer, parent or mentor – has been shown to increase the likelihood of participation. That’s why efforts such as the Alternative Spring Break are so important: if you can successfully engage young people in volunteering you can, in many cases, engage them in some form of community service for a lifetime.”
CYD, which is celebrating 20 years of great programs to benefit area teens, provides the tools to empower youth as leaders in service to their community. Students in grades 6-12 participate in a variety of 21st century skill development programs. In 2015, CYD served over 2,000 middle and high school students through 160 youth development activities throughout Sarasota County. CYD is funded in part by Bank of America Client Foundation, Roberta Leventhal Sudakoff Foundation, Scheidel Foundation, Sarasota County Government, and Volunteer Florida. For more information, call (941) 922-5126 or go to www.cydonline.org.