YouthWorks is a nonprofit mission organization that places middle and high school students in 76 communities throughout the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. Founded in 1994, the organization hires college students and post-college students for internships and leader positions on trips. This upcoming summer, 350 employees will work across North America.
The primary focus of YouthWorks is to build relationships with the families in the neighborhoods volunteers work with. Groups may provide rehabilitation projects, facilitate Kids Club programs or work with other organizations to improve community life. The needs vary from site to site and from week to week, but the focus is on embodying Christ’s love to the groups encountered.
Junior Jenna Harms was assigned to Savannah, Ga., for her summer with YouthWorks. A trip through the organization in high school contributed to her decision to work as a leader.
“I loved the trip when I was in high school, and the people that coordinated the trip I took had a really big impact on my life,” Harms said. “I wanted to be able to impact other students’ lives in the same way.”
Her experience consisted of planning everything for the youth. She planned service projects, evening activities and meals.
“[Although it’s a difficult change,] it’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone and experience something new and to serve God all summer,” Harms said.
Senior Stacey Duensing also worked with YouthWorks in Bayou La Batre, La., as the only female on the Work Projects staff for the entire southeast region of the country. Her focus was on determining which homeowners had the greatest need for a paint job or minor house repairs.
While looking through more than 40 applications, she also spent time developing connections with those in the neighborhood.
“My favorite part of my job was building relationships with the homeowners,” Duensing said. “I had the privilege of working directly with the homeowners, hearing their stories, loving them and being loved in return.”
Building relationships was also a favorite of junior Jason Katsma’s experience in Rapid City, S.D. He served as a connection between YouthWorks and other organizations in the city.
“[My experience] was fantastic,” Katsma said. “I loved that each week the kids brought new energy, though I was jealous of the leaders that got to be a part of these kids’ lives all year round.”
Katsma said he found his summer with YouthWorks to be beneficial in terms of preparing for the real world and an adult job.
“I felt it was a good job that was professional in some aspects but laid back in others,” Katsma said. “It was a healthy transition from college to what a professional job will be like.”
Duensing also said YouthWorks was a beneficial experience.
“[It’s] not necessarily the easiest job ever, but it is a great opportunity for growth, especially if your desire is to serve,” she said. “If you desire to grow in humility, service and selflessness, YouthWorks might be something to look more into.”
More information is available on the YouthWorks website. A representative will be at chapel Wednesday, Oct. 31, to answer questions and recruit summer staff.