“I regularly volunteer at a school township scale, but I wanted to get more involved and volunteer on a larger scale,” says local student Aiysha Amjad. Aiysha’s struggle is one many high school students face: they want to become more involved and engrained in our community, but have few opportunities. Luckily for Aiysha, she found Youth Leadership United (YLU), a United Way of Central Indiana program bridging the gap between high school students and service opportunities in our community.
YLU connects high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors interested in volunteering and developing a better understanding of their community with leadership development and service opportunities. Each year, 30 students from Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion and Morgan counties are selected to participate. At the conclusion of the program, students are provided the opportunity to serve on local nonprofit boards and committees.
“I was very motivated to sign up after hearing about the nonprofit board placement because this would help push me to become more active in Indianapolis,” says Aiysha, YLU class of 2017. Volunteering on a local nonprofit’s board gives students real-world experience and makes them feel like a crucial part of the community. “Because of YLU, I realized that I can’t just sit back and expect other people to go out and take the initiative to make a change, but that I, alongside my peers, have the capability to promote positive change in my community,” shares Aiysha.
YLU is uniting high school students with local organizations, helping infuse them with perspectives they may have never had before. Sahar Abdullah, YLU class of 2017, was the first youth member of the Fay Biccard Glick Neighborhood Center board thanks to YLU. “Youth involvement, for any community, is crucial. Youth need to be represented in community matters because not only do they make up a large part of the population, but they also represent the future. Youth can offer fresh perspectives on many topics,” Sahar shares.
Ashlyn Streicher, a 2016 YLU graduate and Student Council President of her junior class, not only became a junior board member of MCCOY, the Marion County Commission on Youth, but an advocate for youth community service. “Youth should not only be aware of the problems facing the community but seek to solve those problems. Youth are the voices of tomorrow; those voices can either promote change or complacency. Being involved in the community will allow youth to find innovative ways to solve the problems of tomorrow,” she says. Ashlyn recently presented to students at a local middle school, helping ignite a passion for community and volunteering in the next generation.
Applications are now open for the 2018 YLU program. If you or someone you know is a current high school freshman, sophomore or junior looking to become more involved in the community, YLU is a unique and valuable opportunity. “YLU really helped me understand the pressing social, educational and financial issues that are ever present in Indiana,” Aiysha says. “By being involved in the community, I am able to meet with people of all walks of life and understand ideas from a different perspective than my own.”
YLU participants meet students from all over Central Indiana, creating new bonds and friendships that will last for years to come. Students can expect to walk away from the experience with stronger leadership skills, a better perspective on our community and a multitude of new volunteer opportunities in Central Indiana.