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June 7, 2005 > Youth Encourage to Serve at LOV

Youth Encourage to Serve at LOV

by Tony C. Yang

Another summer, another boring break until school starts again, right? Wrong.

Tri-City teenagers now have a place of their own to relax, have fun and earn field trips to places like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and A's baseball games, thanks to the League Of Volunteers (LOV).
In its 11th year, YES! (Youth Encouraged to Serve!) is a 10-week special summer program that runs from June 20 through August 25 and has attracted hundreds of teenagers to give thousands of volunteer hours in previous years. Best of all, it's free and open four days a week.

YES! is "one of the best things" teenagers can do this summer, says executive director of LOV Shirley Sisk. "It's geared primarily for seventh through tenth graders... but everyone in junior high or high school is welcome." Initially formed as a summer volunteer program, it has evolved into an all-day affair for teenagers eager to stay active and productive even during the summer doldrums.

Harold Colon, a YES! team leader from last year who is now in charge of team leaders, said it was important to provide students with role models when school is out. "I enjoy working with teens to be a mentor," he said. "I want to listen to them and I want to show them what an adult should be."

In addition to adult supervision, the YES! facilities at the Community Service Center on Newark Boulevard features video games, pool tables, table tennis, Internet access and other teenager-friendly games and activities. In addition to indoor fun, teens will venture outdoors and be productive instead of being couch potatoes; they can earn a free field trip for every 20 volunteer hours YES! participants put in. Volunteer events can vary from helping pack lunches for "Meals on Wheels" to helping clean out yards. Funding for the field trips come from an estimated $40,000 in LOV grants- car wash fundraisers and other donations round out the support for YES!

Last year Colon took some YES! students to city council chambers for a guided tour, where they asked many questions. Most of the teenagers have never been inside, so he was glad to have the opportunity to "show them some interesting things." Among the other places he has taken students are museums, amusement parks and even A's games.

Instead of getting into trouble or doing drugs, students get to learn and earn credit for these fun field trips, which Colon believes is a great way to spend the summer. "It's a great opportunity for [teenagers] to explore new things and meet new people," he said.

There was a 10 to 15 percent increase in YES! students last year, compared to the year before, and Colon added he would love to see the same increase in participation this year. He said, "We get repeat students coming back [all the time]."

YES! program for this summer begins with a free pizza and ice cream kickoff party on Monday, June 20 at noon and interested parents and teenage participants are welcome to visit the LOV Community Service Center, across from the Lido Faire Shopping Center. YES! team leaders and other potential YES! participants will be available to answer questions or just to chat.

Ultimately, summer always seems too short, for parents and students alike. But teenagers have an extra option this summer with YES! "They learn about community service and get to have fun, too," Colon said, adding that the program aims to empower students, letting them choose their own field trip destinations after volunteering. "The teens decide where they want to go."

Y.E.S.! 10th Annual Kickoff Pizza Party
Monday, June 20
Noon - 2:00 p.m.
LOV Community Service Center
32533 Newark Blvd., Newark
(510) 793-5683

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