On her mission to spotlight the “Young and Relentless” – the teens and twenty-somethings that are (already!) changing the world – Sonia Chokshi talks to Rachel Shuster, founder of Kids Care HHH, who spoke at the BIF-8 conference in Providence, RI.
At age 16, Rachel is already mobilizing her peers to create change in her community. From walk-a-thons to fashion shows, Kids Care HHH organizes local events that are not only service-oriented but exciting for youth. As Rachel explains, most young people are driven to serve their communities but are looking for both fun and impactful means of doing so.
Talk to your nieces and nephews, and ask them about their interests in terms of serving their community. If your nieces are involved in school sports, they may be interested in joining walks or runs for certain community causes. If your nephews enjoy science fairs, they might like to organize a fun event that benefits the community and allows your nephews a chance to showcase their talents. Once you’ve created a list of interests, help your nieces and nephews find great opportunities for service.
Learn more about generationOn, and follow Kids Care HHH on Twitter (@kidscareHHH).
So, what is your organization? What makes it different? Rachel Shuster:
Kids Care HHH is a local chapter of a national program of generationOn Kids Care clubs, and what it is, is a club model for now middle school and high school students to get involved in service. And what’s cool about my Kids Care Club and all the different Kids Care clubs is that it is youth run. The youth plan the events and go out in our local and global community to find out what they’re passionate about and figure out what we can do to help. S:
So, what are some of the awesome projects that you have done so far? R:
We’ve done anything from different cleanups to walk-a-thons to carnivals at a local homeless shelter to larger projects that range from bowling fundraisers and fashion shows.S:
So, as a 16-year-old, what was the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a young person trying to make change in today’s communities, and how did you overcome that? R:
One of the challenges I’ve had to overcome was working with my peers because I was working with my friends, and you have to know your boundaries between being the boss and being the friend. And I feel like right now I’m in a good place with that, and I’ve really learning through my experiences on how to be the boss and how to get things done—but do it in a fun way, where it’s social and fun for everyone. S:
What are some of the tactics or tools or activities you use to make it fun for your peers and also kind of get stuff done? R:
I use a lot of incentives, so we do a lot of games. I created an executive board to add a little more commitment and a title to everyone’s position because as we’re going through high school, people want the credit on their college resume; and even though it’s not for that, I felt that if that’s what it takes to get people to come and enjoy doing community service, then that’s what I gotta do. S:
So, you spoke on the stage, which is really, really incredible. It must have been a really awesome experience. What was it like? What was it like preparing for the talk and giving it in front of a lot of people who are a lot older than you? R:
It was definitely nerve-wracking at first before I actually started to prepare. I was like, “How am I supposed to do this and talk to a lot of people who are older than me?” But as I started to prepare, I realized that I’m really talking about what I love to do and what I know best about. If I had to talk about anything and be comfortable talking about it, this would be it. And at first I was nervous, as I said, but once I got on stage, I was excited to spread my message and to see the reaction of the crowd. S:
What sparked your interest in community service in the first place? R:
I grew up in a family that always did charitable things, and I knew I wanted to do something to give back because I knew I was fortunate enough to have food on the table, a roof over my head, a loving family; and I just knew that I wanted to do something on my own to give back to everyone around me. S:
So, what’s next for you and Kids Care? What is next for you? R:
Well, I’m continuing to expand Kids Care. Right now, there’s about 50 members. I would love to expand that more, and also, I started an elementary school club in my elementary school. What I would really love to do is get those types of clubs in all the surrounding areas as well. S:
What do you think is the biggest thing that is stopping youth from getting involved in community service? R:
I just think that youth don’t know how. I know that youth want to get involved, and they’re always interested in donating money if there’s something in the school. But they don’t know how to bring that, and they don’t have it in themselves to go out and find something. So, for me to provide that platform for them is how I get more kids involved. S:
So, you said that you have 50 kids now involved in Kids Care, which is pretty incredible. How did you get those people on board, and how are you keeping them involved? R:
Well, as I said, at first it takes a little of “You need the credit for school! C’mon! Do it!” But then once they do that first project, and they see it’s fun, and they’re not only doing it for school purposes now, and it’s social, and it’s usually on the weekends and just a fun activity, then they just keep coming back. As I said, it’s fun. It’s not only rewarding what you do. It’s exciting and fulfilling. S:
So if there was somebody who was listening to this podcast, who was a young person, who was interested in getting involved—and like you said, they don’t know where to go, what to do—what would you recommend? R:
I would definitely suggest checking out generationOn.org
, where they have great tools for parents, teens, youth of all ages to get involved in service, in all different walks of life. S:
So if somebody wanted to find out more about you and Kids Care HHH, where should they go to find out more? R:
Well, you can follow Kids Care HHH on Twitter
, where I post upcoming events and information about Kids Care.
Published: November 7, 2012