“We’re bored!” This is what we heard from a group of middle school students after our initial meeting to brainstorm a summer youth program for Ames, Iowa. That settled it. We needed to find something for them to do.
And, what better way for youth to spend their summer days than to volunteer? The youth wanted to do something fun, but also something that would fill a community need. The youth at the meeting thought it would be a great idea to throw a block party for their neighborhood. Since that first meeting, the youth took control. They went to businesses to get donations, organized a car wash to raise money, planned activities for the block party and more. They met with the mayor and a member of the police force. They recruited friends to join.
The thing the youth wanted most at the block party was a dunk tank. They raised money at the car wash to rent the dunk tank. When they found out it was going to cost an extra $80 to have the dunk tank picked up that night, they said no way, even though they had enough money to pay for that. They thought that was too much money to spend on a dunk tank, so they decided to use the money to provide food for the people coming to the block party. They also wanted to organize a raffle and donate the proceeds to our local domestic assault shelter. These were all ideas they came up with on their own. They were sure to organize activities for people of all ages, including a learning center for the young ones.
The Tripp Street Block Party was held on July 25 and involved 10 youth, four AmeriCorps VISTA members, a mom and grandmother, and other volunteers. The Volunteer Center of Story County, the City of Ames, and the Iowa State Extension also partnered in this effort. We met approximately three hours a week to organize the project.
It is our hope that this will be the first of many projects. The group already came up with a name for themselves – the AmeZone. We hope this will be a service-learning club for youth in Ames. I have been truly inspired by the youth we have worked with.
AmeZone has come together as a new volunteer group devoted to leadership and community building activities for youth aged 11-18. They held their first official “Informational & Brainstorming Meeting” for local youth and adults on August 16. To get involved in a similar project in your community, keyword search: “youth center” “service learning” “community center”